At some point, every greeting card gets tossed. The good news: Most are 100% recyclable.

greeting-card-recycling.jpg It seems like there is a greeting card for everything. Besides the obvious holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, you can find greeting cards to celebrate Boss’ Day, Veteran’s Day, Friendship Day and Groundhog Day. There are even “Just Because” cards. The Greeting Card Association, an industry trade group, estimates that Americans buy 6.5 billion greeting cards every year. When you receive a greeting card, you probably admire it, thank the person who gave it to you, maybe even stand it on your mantle for a couple of weeks or months. But, at some point, you are probably going to get rid of it. What is the best thing to do with old greeting cards? Since greeting cards are made of paper, most of them are quite easy to recycle. However, modern greeting cards present some challenges. You may need to remove items like music players or metal charms before you put them in the recycle bin. If the greeting card comes in an envelope lined with foil, that presents another challenge. And, there are plenty of great ways to reuse greeting cards, so recycling might not even be your best option.

How to recycle greeting cards

A plain-paper greeting card that comes in a plain-paper envelope can go straight in your recycling bin along with junk mail and other paper products. The card can be made of any type of paper, including heavy cardstock or shiny paper. Most recycling centers will not accept greeting cards made with anything besides paper. That includes glitter, foil, metal charms, felt cutouts and ribbon. You will need to remove all those items from greeting cards before you put them in the recycling bin. The extra bits of material must go in the trash. Foil-lined envelopes also cannot be recycled. Since the foil covers pretty much the entire inside of the envelope, plan on throwing it away. A small number of greeting cards come with a battery-operated device that plays music or conveys a message when it is opened. You will need to remove the whole device (including the speakers) before you place the card in your recycling bin. Check the batteries to see if you can reuse them; most cards use the tiny button batteries found in many household devices. If your community has an e-waste recycling program, it should accept the circuit board and speakers. The blog Creative Family Moments offers a great tutorial on how to reuse the device in a musical card if you do not want to throw it away.

How to reuse greeting cards

Greeting cards are also fun and easy to reuse. Here are a few ideas:
  • Reuse the cover as-is. Cut or tear off the front cover (the part with the artwork) and use it again. You can write your recipient a message on the back side.
  • Use old greeting cards to make new cards. Every year I go through old Christmas cards and look for ones that can be cut up and transformed into new cards. You can easily do the same thing with birthday cards, thank-you notes and other kinds of greeting cards. The cards are free and the results can look quite nice. And, do not forget to check out the envelopes, too. Envelopes without much writing on the outside can be reused as background paper for your card creations. If they are lined with foil, that material on the inside can be pretty quite in cards, too.
  • Turn greeting cards into gift tags. Cut out the nicest part of the card, write your name on the back, and attach it to a gift to let the recipient know who gave it to them. This will keep you from having to buy gift tags for presents.
  • Donate your greeting cards to charity. There are a couple charities that will take your old greeting cards and give them to children, who can use the cards to craft new creations. It is a fun activity for the kids and a great fundraiser for the nonprofit. Consider donating your leftover cards to an organization like St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. Note: Some organization place restrictions on the types of cards they will take or when they will accept them, so be sure and read their website carefully.
  • Use them for other craft projects. People turn old greeting cards into Christmas tree ornaments, boxes, placements, bookmarks and all kinds of other things. Check out Pinterest or other craft sites for ideas.

Greeting card buying habits

When you purchase greeting cards, think about how easy it will be for your recipient to reuse or recycle it. That foil-embossed card with a plastic cover and tassel decoration may look pretty, but much of it is destined for a landfill. You can also avoid buying greeting cards altogether by sending your friend or loved one an e-card. There are dozens of sites on the Internet that allow you to send e-cards (or e-flowers) for free.