Dos and Don’ts With Recycling this Holiday Season

By Lauren Wong

We all know that when it comes to the holiday season our trash bins are fuller than ever, maybe even jam packed to the brim. On average, there’s a 25% increase in accumulated waste that comes from every American household.

Stanford University published an article that shows the extensive difference we can make by saving just a few things that we’d normally throw away without a second thought. If every family set aside just two feet of ribbon every Christmas while opening up their presents, then combined as a nation, we’d have 38,000 miles of ribbon. That’s enough to tie a bow around the entire planet.

If every family reused materials for wrapping just three presents, we’d collectively save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. There’s plenty of unique ways you can go about when it comes to wrapping. Typically, wrapping paper is used once and then just ends up in a landfill. Try wrapping presents in items you already have that you have no need for. For example, wrap small gifts in colorful pages torn from a magazine and bigger presents in newspapers you’ve already read, or the Sunday comics.

Roughly 2.65 billion Christmas cards are bought every year. Enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. If everyone just sent one less Christmas card, 500,000 cubic yards of paper would be saved each year.

When you throw stuff into your recycle bin, though with good intentions, mistakes are costly. Endless hours are spent by employees that sort through and discard items that should’ve been thrown in the trash. The good news is that with just a little extra time on your part by making sure everything you put in that blue bin is indeed recyclable, we can make these workers’ lives a lot easier, and avoid contaminating what actually is recyclable.

So here are some tips to keep in mind this season…

When you’re at the store shifting through those bins filled with decorative wrapping paper, look for ones made of recycled paper. Don’t assume all wrapping paper is recyclable. Regular and glossy paper are recyclable, but anything with non-paper additives goes in the trash. For example, if your paper has metallic flakes, glitter, foil, plastics, or is heavily laminated, those go in the trash. Do not recycle bows or ribbons. Additionally, lights and tinsel should always be thrown away.

The best thing you can do is attempt to avoid wrapping paper entirely, or at least limit it. You can find plenty of festive reusable bins, baskets, or boxes to put your gifts in. And, they can have all the glitter and embellishments your heart desires! Saving bows and ribbons from all those presents that Santa brings saves you money, and an extra trip to the store. While shopping, bring your own reusable bag to avoid all of the plastic waste that comes from stores.

Amazon, and all the convenience it brings, has become the new go to place when it comes to checking things off your list. When your packages arrive, be sure to break down all those cardboard boxes and toss them in your recycle bin.

Planning on upgrading your phone or laptop this Christmas?  Drop off your old gadget at a local electronic recycling center.

This is all a lot to remember as your mind is occupied with all the joy and stress that comes with the holidays. Here’s a broken down list of exactly what goes in trash and what’s recyclable.

TRASH:

  • Bubble wrap
  • Cellophane
  • Plastic bags
  • Christmas lights, ribbons, and bows
  • Batteries
  • Food packaging/waste
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Foam packaging

RECYCLE:

  • Cardboard and paper boxes
  • Plain wrapping paper
  • Plain, paper gift bags
  • Holiday cards and envelopes that don’t have any embellishments (ie: glitter and glued on decorations)
  • Sticky gift tags (not recyclable on their own, but acceptable if attached to an envelope or wrapping paper)
  • Rinsed and cleaned recyclable food containers

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