Even the most dedicated friends of the Earth can find the recycling dos and donts of the holiday season confusing. What do you do with the tinsel from your tree, or your old tree for that matter? What about your old holiday lights or wrapping paper. The last thing we want to do is send things needlessly to the landfill, so here are some dos and donts to guide you through your post-holiday cleanup.
Be careful what you put in the recycling bin. Of course you wrapped your gifts in undyed recyclable paper made from a renewable source or undyed organic cloth tied with a cloth ribbon, but perhaps someone gave you a gift wrapped in (horror of horrors) wrapping paper made with non eco-friendly dyes and non-paper additives. These papers are often not suitable for recycling for a variety of reasons – the paper is thin and usually there are bits of tape still attached, among other reasons. But recycling centers vary from city to city, so check to see if standard wrapping paper is allowed in your landfill, if not, dispose of it in another way or find another use for the wrapping paper. Other things that are recycle facility no-nos, according to Repbulic Services’ recycling naughty list: bubble wrap, ribbons and bows, tree ornaments including tinsel and garlands, sticky gift labels, laminated and dyed gift bags, foam packing peanuts.
Try to save as much of the paper, ribbons, wrappings and cards as you can . Reuse them next year rather than sending them to the landfill. Doing so, of course reduces the amount of post-holiday trash headed to the dump (imagine if all your neighbors did the same) and will cut down on your expenses for next year, but it will also give you a head start on holiday projects for next year. This year’s Christmas card from Aunt Beth can be cut and recycled into next year’s hand-made holiday greeting. Wrapping and ribbons from this year can also be reused when wrapping presents or decorating next year. We like to use the ribbons from gifts on holiday ornament cookies the next year. Tinsel and garlands can be reused in a variety of decorating ideas for next season, including making wreaths and ornaments.
Did you have a real tree? If so, check to find out if there is a program in your town that mulches the trees after the holidays. If so, this year’s Christmas tree could be returned to the earth as someone’s garden mulch and that’s a very green idea. Be sure to remove all ornaments, lights and decorations before sending the tree in for mulching, especially remove tinsel.
What do you do with a string of lights that no longer work? Recycle them of course, and receive a credit for next year’s lights. Some companies, like Holiday LED accept old strings of lights and rather than sending them to the landfill, recycle them. The company offers a coupon toward the purchase of new lights. During the 2009-10 holiday season, the company kept more than 10,000 pounds of old lights from piling up in landfills. For more information, visit the company’s website at http://www.holidayleds.com/holidayledscom_christmas_light_recycling_program.
1. Republic Service, a recycling company, website, visited 11/30/2010: http://www.republicservices.com/pr-44.html
2. Holiday LEDs website, visited 11/30/2010, http://www.holidayleds.com/holidayledscom_christmas_light_recycling_program