Recycling into 2018

Understanding that there really is no “away” when something is thrown away, I am separating my holiday refuse that has quickly and completely taking over my garage, considering the environmental sound way to handle each item.  Before my eyes stretches the evidence of the large family Christmas that had my house busting at the seams over the weekend: Boxes stack on boxes, styrofoam chunks stacked on styrofoam chunks, a whole trash bag of wrapping paper balancing on top of one of the box piles. Plastic bags stuffed with other plastic bags. Cans and bottles galore. What a scene.

According to the EPA, household trash increases 25% for the average American family between Thanksgiving and New Years, and my household is no different. Here are some ideas on what to do with the stuff and enter 2018 knowing that 2017 is disposed of properly.

Toy and Gift Packaging

The packaging that all of the new stuff came in often consists of different materials: cardboard, paper, plastic, and odds and ends such as screws, tape, and twists. These items should all be separated, and disposed of according to individual recycling center’s methods of disposal and availability. The cardboard and paper board of packaging can be recycled. Read labeling for plastic recycling information. Unsure about types of plastic and what can be recycled? Check out eartheasy’s Plastic by the Numbers to understand plastic recycling more. Screws and plastic twists are not recyclable and would go into the trash. Plastic twists could have a second life if reused. Ideas include securing cables and wires, tying plants in the garden and around the house, resealing cereals, chips, and frozen vegetables.  

Boxes

The holiday season does result in cardboard box overload, but these items are recyclable and can be picked up via curbside recycling or taken to a drop off center. Be sure to remove any items from the box such as styrofoam or plastic, and flatten the boxes to make room in the bin, and the trucks collecting the recyclables.

Packing Peanuts

The tiny foam protector of valuables often make way into the home via shipments and are typically not accepted at recycling centers. Check with your center to see whether shipping peanuts are accepted. Another option is taking the peanuts to shipping stores such as UPS that do participate in reusing programs.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam, or foamed polystyrene, has a very poor environmental reputation as it is accepted at very few recycling programs. Most foamed polystyrene ends up buried in landfills. Do check with local facilities to see if one that accepts foamed polystyrene is close.

Wrapping Paper

Unfortunately, most holiday wrapping paper cannot be recycled due to the way in which the paper was made. Glossy or laminated papers are a no go in the recycle bin. Shiny additions on the paper such as glitter and metallic also make it unable to be recycled. While those papers sure do look fun and festive under the tree, following the holidays this type of paper must be compacted and sent to the landfill. Next year consider alternatives to traditional holiday wrapping paper. Also remember to save and reuse gift bags, tissue paper, holiday boxes, bows, and ribbons.

Tissue Paper

Tissue paper is made from low grade, short fiber paper, unable to be recycled further. One option for tissue paper is to save and reuse it in gift giving. Composting is another way to give tissue paper new life and send less items to the landfill. No compost pile going on in your household? Information on starting a compost system for any lifestyle is available at the library or via an internet search.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap can not be thrown in with curbside recycling, but typically can be dropped off at locations that accept plastic bags. Similar to plastic bags, these items clog the recycling stream and are accepted at separate drop off locations. Most grocery stores typically participate in a plastic bag recycling program.

Used Paper Plates and Napkins

Using reusable dinnerware and washing dishes after the festivities is the most ecofriendly way to grub over the holiday season. If using disposable dishes avoid styrofoam plates as these cannot be recycled. While paper plates and napkins also cannot be recycled, they can be thrown in the compost pile.

Cans and Glass Bottles

Recycle those cans, people! Used aluminum cans can be recycled, filled with new product, and back on the shelf within six weeks. Cans can be collected curbside or taken to a drop off facility. It’s those glass bottles that get a little tricky. Yes, they can be recycled, but glass is typically not accepted curbside. Check with your local recycling center on glass drop offs, if glass is not accepted at your center, other options are available. Ripple Glass out of Kansas City has several drop off locations. Another idea to consider is crafters may be interested in various shapes and sizes of glass bottles for creative purposes.

When cleaning up after the party, it’s important to get the items into the correct receptacle. Some of the best intentions can still cause backup within recycling process and an increase in items heading to the landfill. When all items are put into the recycling bin under the assumption that it will be sorted correctly at the facility, more resources are put into the recycling process than necessary. This ends up being costly to everyone. Start the New Year right, happy 2018, everyone!