Deck the halls without trashing the bin.
The holiday season is upon us, and while we prepare for each of our own holiday traditions it is important to also look at how the holidays impact recycling. During the holidays, many trash haulers and waste management companies put out information that is designed to help consumers reduce the contamination in their recycling bin. While we too will be providing you with a basic list, we also wanted to touch on great ways to alter your holiday waste and reduce it when possible.
Day-to-Day Tips and Reminders
In terms of what can go into the recycling bin, we strongly recommend that you contact your own hauler to determine what items are accepted based on where you live and who handles your trash and recycling services. With that being said, there are some basic things that are pretty universal in their recyclability and acceptance around the United States.
Most recycling programs will accept: mixed paper, cardboard, printer paper, junk mail, magazines, newspaper, aluminum cans and steel cans. Many (not all, or even most) recycling programs also accept glass - placed next to the commingle bin, or in its own bin.
Plastic recycling is not an area that can be generalized, as programs vary wildly across the United States. However, we can tell you that it is really important for all of your cans, glass, and plastic recycling to be rinsed when you put it into the bin, and most will need to be washed to ensure it is contaminate free.
Things you should never put in commingle recycling streams include: glass and metal lids that have been separated from their larger containers, bottle caps, soda tabs, disposable paper products (tissues, plates, bowls or cups), garden hoses, liquids, hazardous materials, needles, razor blades, ammunition (including spent rounds), light bulbs, and Styrofoam.
If your community is able to recycle plastics curbside, please seek to understand what is accepted. Commonly, plastic lids, uncoded plastics, #3 plastics, plastic film, and #1 Clamshell plastics are not something many haulers or communities accept in commingle recycling. To be honest, both of these lists can go on for a very long time. For that reason, if you are unsure about where to discard something, PLEASE contact your hauler or point of recycling to ask before you place it in the recycling bin.
Improving recycling nationwide, starts with us and our individual actions.
Holiday Specific Tips and Reminders
As noted, with all the specialized products, gift giving materials, gifts, cards, décor, and a whole lot of packaging; the holidays present a more unique set of challenges for recycling. Here, as with the day-to-day tips, we are unable to give an exact list of what is accepted in your area. However, we can give you a good idea of what not to put in your curbside or commingle recycling.
Materials that you should not toss in your recycling bins include: discarded strands of lights, strands of garland/tinsel, most wrapping papers (they are mixed material), bows/ribbons/paper with excessive tape, electronic greeting cards/ greeting cards with glitter/ greeting cards that are mixed materials/greeting cards with metallic embellishments/high gloss photo cards, gift tissue paper, most holiday décor, as we would also like to remind you that most municipalities do not accept corrugated/formed #1 Clamshell packaging, plastic film, and/or Styrofoam. If you are in doubt, please call your hauler/recycling center and ask. If you are ever in doubt, leave it out until you have sought clarification.
Prevent the Creation of Trash
There are several ways that you can work to reduce the amount of waste you generate this holiday season. One simple swap that can really help the planet is the use of live Christmas trees versus cut or plastic ones. Contrary to popular belief, fake Christmas trees are more wasteful than a real tree. *With the exception of flocked Christmas trees* The additional benefit to a live Christmas tree is that you and your loved ones now have an activity to do next month - find a nice permanent home for your new tree. In many areas, you are able to rent a live tree, and many find that this is a better alternative to purchasing a live tree.
Other tips to reduce the waste that you are sending to the landfill include: Skip the holiday wrapping paper for kraft paper, skip the garland and tinsel for strands of popcorn on hemp rope, skip the gifts and opt for gift cards (bonus if you reloaded ones you already have), replace bulbs or fuzes on your twinkle lights instead of purchasing new strands, use décor that you already own, make décor with natural materials, make décor with upcycled materials, buy presents and décor at a secondhand shop, skip the ‘spray snow’ that is laden with chemicals, and lastly- skip the disposable dishes for all of your holiday meals and small get togethers. The use of disposable tableware and cutlery has a tendency to spike during the summer and during the holidays. It is important to remind yourself, there is a vast amount of energy used to make disposables-yet we purchase them with the intention of throwing them away.
There are additional ways to potentially further reduce your impact on the planet with holiday celebrations. Remember to compost your food waste, natural décor, natural wrapping paper. Composting in the winter can be challenging, however Bokashi can help with that. We can all enjoy the holidays without the excessive waste historically generated.