Christmas is over — and in its wake has left a lot of debris.

From a mountain of wrapping paper to broken string lights, holiday cards and Christmas trees, the holiday aftermath raises many questions for well-intentioned Minnesotans: what is trash, and what can be recycled?

The answer isn't always straightforward, which can lead to a lot of "wish-cycling" — throwing something in the recycling bin because you hope it's the right thing to do, whether it actually is or not. Often, it's not.

"It's just kind of giving it a longer route to end up in the trash," said Alisa Reckinger, communications and outreach specialist for Hennepin County's Environment and Energy Department. Wish-cycling makes "the whole recycling system a little less efficient overall as well, potentially making the things that are actually recyclable harder to get to the point where you can recycle them," Reckinger said.

While handling the basics like paper and plastic is fairly consistent, how to properly dispose of other items may vary depending on where you live. For more information, consult your city and/or trash and recycling hauler.

Here's a look at the right thing to do with common holiday detritus.

Wrapping paper

It's trash — unless it's relatively plain, like brown paper and newsprint, in which case you should dispose of it by folding it — not balling it up — so the recycling sorting machines identify it as paper.

"When you get a big ball of paper, the machine might not recognize it," Reckinger said. While the paper shouldn't be covered in tape, a little is generally OK.

There are a couple issues here: One, wrapping paper is often covered in foil and glitter. "Those additives make it so that it's not easily recyclable," Reckinger said.

Two, more traditional wrapping paper tends to be low-quality paper covered in dye. "It's just not real high-quality, and so that also makes it challenging to recycle," she said.

Tissue paper

If it's done for, trash. Like many wrapping papers, tissue paper is low-quality and often full of dye.

But a better option is to find a way to reuse it, said Andrea McKennan, outreach and engagement supervisor with Ramsey County Environmental Health.

"If it's not ripped or really wrinkled up, I fold it up and save it," she said. "Or use it to wrap up your ornaments if you're taking down a Christmas tree."

Trees and greenery

What to do with your real Christmas tree? It depends on where you live, so consult your city and/or trash hauler.

In Ramsey County, trees can be dropped off at some county yard waste sites. Other cities and counties may have similar options. Ramsey County doesn't accept flocked trees, but some facilities do.

Ramsey County encourages residents to dispose of Christmas trees in a "timely manner," rather than burn them or leave them in the backyard, because invasive pests might be hiding out in them.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, you can place a tree less than 6 feet tall next to your garbage cart for pick-up. Obviously, remove lights and ornaments before disposing of trees in any fashion.

When it comes to other greenery such as wreaths and garlands, it's best to check. Many yard waste facilities don't accept them because they often come with wires and metal.

String lights

Recycle them — but not in your cart at home. If you put them in your cart, you run the risk of being on your recycler's naughty list. That's because string lights belong to a family of objects that Reckinger calls "tanglers."

"Tanglers do exactly what they sound like they do — they get tangled up in the equipment at those recycling facilities," Reckinger said. They often have to be disentangled by hand.

Ideally, you should repair string lights and use them as long as you can. When you're done with them, many counties, including Hennepin and Ramsey, will accept them at reuse centers. The wires can be stripped out and recycled.

Many retailers also collect old string lights for recycling. The Recycling Association of Minnesota has a list of locations around the state here:

Holiday cards

Throw away or recycle? It depends. If the card is made of photo paper, or has glitter, foil or ribbons on it, throw it in the trash. If it's plain card stock, recycle it, Reckinger said.

Batteries and electronics

Recycle them — and do it at the right drop-off facility. If you take batteries to a drop-off site, not only will the reusable materials they contain be recycled, you will also avoid potentially causing a fire at a waste facility.

If recycling electronics is possible where you live, it's a good option to choose, McKennan said. In Ramsey County, electronics can be recycled through a partnership with Repowered (formerly Tech Dump).

"Computers, gaming consoles, TVs, phones with batteries — all of that can go there for recycling or refurbishment," she said. "They'll wipe the data and then if the item is still good, they'll get it back out into the community."

Toy packaging

Paper and plastic packaging are generally recyclable. When they're combined and you can separate the paper from the plastic, recycle the paper, McKennan said.

If the plastic has a number on it that's recyclable in your area, you can recycle it. If not — and that's usually the case — throw it in the trash, she said. The same goes for styrofoam.

Think ahead

If all this has you feeling bad about how much trash you generated over the holidays, Reckinger said now is a great time to think ahead about how to be more sustainable. Gift boxes, reusable gift bags, bows and cloth wrapping paper are all great ways to send less, not more, to the landfill.

"Start to set that intention now because it'll make it easier when we get back into the rush of the holiday season next year to already have a plan," she said.