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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and with the holiday season comes the company of loved ones, the glee of seasonal festivities and the joy of giving. And with the thousands of gifts, cards, trees and ornaments we share comes an influx of household holiday waste.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we increase our typical volume household waste by nearly a quarter during the winter holidays, producing almost 1 million additional tons nationwide.
But don’t look at garbage as the Grinch of your household’s holidays! Here’s a few tips from the National Waste & Recycling Association on how to keep your home sustainable through the New Year and beyond.
Recycle Right to stay on the Nice List
- A classic snapshot of a successful holiday haul is the pile of gift wrap, plastic packaging and empty cardboard by the fireplace. Wrapping paper is not recyclable and should not go in your curbside recycling bin. What to do? Try reusing it, along with your ribbons and bows.
- Cardboard, newspaper and many other types of paper are almost always recyclable, and your local recycling company also likely accepts a number of types of plastics, along with the bottles and cans from your festive merriment. Check with your local hauler to see what you can and can’t recycle.
- Holiday lights are a staple of the season, but inevitably they go out and must be disposed of. You should not recycle these in your curbside collection bin. However, your community waste and recycling program may accept them, as will certain retailers, including The Home Depot.
- While we’re dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card we write, we’re also accumulating quite a bit of recyclable paper. Nearly 3 billion holiday cards are sold annually in the U.S. Did you know that mail is generally recyclable in most communities? Enjoy holiday cards however long you like, but don’t feel bad about recycling them when you’re ready. It’s the right thing to do!
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly—Then Compost Them
- Many natural holiday decorations—Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands made from organic materials—can be repurposed themselves in a natural way. Some communities will host post-holiday composting and mulching events for larger items like trees, and you may be able to manage smaller items in your own home composting bin.
- If you can’t reuse every leftover item from your holiday feast—like those many fruit salads—you may be able to compost them. While meat products typically should not be composted, other natural items—fruits, vegetables, potatoes, coffee grounds and others—are welcome in the pile. You can even compost used cardboard. Try to donate other unused food to local charities before tossing.
It’s the Holiday Season, and Garbage Trucks are Comin’ Round
- After Santa’s sleigh hauls out countless gifts this holiday season, America’s dedicated waste and recycling collectors will hit the roads in full force to haul back the packaging, paper and other waste we dispose of. Spread the holiday cheer to the curbside by stowing your waste and recycling bins and carts properly and securely dispose of any sharp objects, such as broken ornaments or plates. These should not be recycled.
- Also be sure to be on the lookout for garbage trucks as closely as you’d look out for Santa’s reindeer. Remember to slow down to get around garbage trucks to protect yourself and waste workers from injury.