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How to avoid common holiday recycling mistakes

King County Solid Waste said even with good intentions, foil wrapping paper and holiday lights should not be put in your recycling bin.

SEATTLE — King County's Solid Waste Division is asking people to avoid making common recycling mistakes this holiday season.

While residents may mean well and want to avoid throwing items in the trash, things like Christmas lights, glittery wrapping paper and Styrofoam packaging can't be recycled in county plants.

These items can clog machines inside recycling plants, requiring workers to pause, shut down and fish out items before they can restart, according to Quinn Apuzzo, government and community relations manager for Recology.

Jeff Gaisford, the recycling and environmental services manager for King County's Solid Waste Division, said the setbacks are inefficient, labor-intensive and can cost time and money.

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"It costs more because... you create work for people that if you didn't put it in, they could process a lot more material a lot more quickly," Gaisford said.

Apuzzo said wrapping gifts in household paper like maps or newspapers, or choosing forms of wrapping paper that can be recycled, are easy ways to create less waste this holiday season.

If you're unsure whether or not you can recycle something, take a second to look it up before throwing it in the recycling bin.

"When you're standing there at the bin and thinking, 'can I recycle this?' Check with your service provider, look up their website, they tell you in a really localized way what you can put in your bin," said Gaisford. "If you're in a rush and don't know, when in doubt, throw it out."

While items like holiday lights can't be put in your recycling bin, they can be dropped off at a number of sites -- some are free but some cost money.

Click the links below to see recycling information for different western Washingon counties:

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