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The holidays can be a wonderful time - full of sparkling lights, favorite treats and festive gatherings.
It’s also a time when garbage bins run over with the remnants of our revelry. All of those holiday gifts, wrapped with such care, can be reduced to shreds in milliseconds.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that between the weeks of Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw out 25 percent more trash. That’s more than 1 million additional tons a week.
If you’re wondering what you can do to cut down on the waste, read on.
Some wrapping paper is recyclable – all of it is reusable
- You can recycle wrapping paper at home if it isn’t made of foil or covered in glitter.
- Before putting wrapping paper in the recycle bin, remove bows and ribbons.
- You can save your bows, ribbons and wrapping paper to reuse next year or try donating them at a place like SCRAP.
Keep Styrofoam and plastic packaging out of the home recycling bin
- You can’t recycle block Styrofoam at home. But you can drop it off to be recycled at Agilyx in Tigard. If it’s a haul for you to get there, consider a carpooling approach with friends or neighbors. Otherwise, Styrofoam goes in the trash.
- Packaging peanuts don’t belong in the recycling bin either. Check whether your local packaging store can use them. If not, they go in the trash.
- Most types of plastic packaging – including film, bubble wrap and the pre-formed plastic encapsulating some toys, batteries and electronics – belong in the garbage. Even if you see a recycling symbol on them.
- Some grocery stores may collect plastic bags, film and bubble wrap for recycling. Check with stores first.
Take broken string lights to a facility to be recycled
- String lights of any type don’t go in the home recycling bin.
- But they can be recycled at a facility. Metal recyclers will separate the valuable copper wire from the plastic. Search Metro’s online database for a recycler close to you.
- Remove large bulbs before drop-off.
- If you don’t take them to a recycler, they should go in the garbage.
Batteries are hazardous – keep them out of garbage and recycling bins
- If you haven’t bought batteries yet for all of those cool electronic toys and gadgets, so sorry. And you might think about buying rechargeable ones. Today’s rechargables last longer and charge faster than before.
- How you can dispose of batteries depends on the type of battery. The most common household batteries - those alkaline ones like the AAs in your remote control - are the only ones that can go in the garbage (not the recycling).
- Many other types of batteries can be both toxic and flammable. Take them to a hazardous waste facility. Some retail stores may also take them.
Compost the Christmas tree – with yard debris, through a nonprofit or at a facility
Recycle your Christmas tree in one of three ways: through a local nonprofit, at a garbage and recycling facility or with your regular yard debris pick-up. Be aware that rules and fees may differ depending on where you live.
- Some nonprofit organizations will pick up your tree for a fee. Nonprofits are a great choice because they help raise money for worthwhile causes.
- No matter how you decide to get rid of your tree, you’ll need to prep it. Remove lights, tinsel and ornaments. If you are putting it out with your yard debris, larger trees may also need to be cut in half or thirds.
- Christmas wreaths can often be recycled with trees, but check first. Most recyclers ask you to remove all frames and wire.
Get more expert recycling counsel from Metro
Less is more: No-waste gift ideas for next year
Many Oregonians have been shifting away from buying new stuff - in efforts to save money, reduce environmental impact or to focus on moments that matter.
And they know that rethinking gift-giving doesn’t have to mean cutting back on good cheer.
Next year, consider adopting new holiday traditions.
- Thoughtfully regift new and unopened items. Take that scarf from Aunt Betty that just isn’t your style. If you think your friend would love it – sweet – pass it along.
- Give the gift of an experience. Go for something that creates memories, not trash. Like cooking classes, tickets to a concert or a year-long parking pass to amazing natural areas around greater Portland or around the state.