Along with the holidays comes an increase in consumption and waste — Americans produce 25 percent more trash in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s! Last month Susan Waite explained how to reduce wrapping paper waste. Here are more tips on reducing waste this holiday season:
Shopping and gift giving:
¦Use reusable bags when gift and grocery shopping.
¦Make your own gifts, or give gifts such as tickets to shows, gift certificates for restaurants, classes, or services, memberships, or donations.
¦Purchase gifts that don’t come in plastic packaging.
¦Use reusable plates, cups, and cutlery if possible. If you do use disposable, choose compostable items — 100 percent paper items can go in home or transfer station composting.
¦Reuse decorations year to year, or use natural materials.
¦Cardboard boxes can be reused or recycled (flatten first).
¦Packing paper can be recycled.
¦Plastic packing materials such as bubble wrap and air pillows CANNOT go in the recycling bin. However, they can be brought to grocery and big box stores for recycling, along with plastic bags.
¦UPS stores take used packing peanuts, bubble wrap, air pillows, and boxes in good condition.
¦Expanded Polystyrene (usually referred to as Styrofoam) packing materials CANNOT go in the recycling bin. However, they can be reused and block Styrofoam can be recycled — at your transfer station if you have a sticker, or at Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Palmer www.goldcircuitecycling.com
Gift wrapping materials
¦Wrapping paper can be recycled if it isn’t metallic, glittery, or felted (refer to Susan Waite’s previous column). Use reused or recycled wrapping paper, or use cloth.
¦Ribbon must go in the trash.
¦Cards can go in the recycling if they don’t contain glitter, foil, felt or ribbons. Remove and reuse or recycle any button batteries (as e-waste, not in your bin!).
Christmas Trees and Lights
¦If a string of lights doesn’t work, check and replace broken lights or a blown fuse (the two most common problems). Do NOT put lights in the recycling. Two options for mailing in lights for recycling are Christmas-light-source.com and holidayleds.com
¦Check with your town or waste hauler about disposing of your tree after the holidays — there are often either special collections or drop off events, after which they are usually chipped up for mulch. Make sure your tree is free of tinsel and all other decorations!
¦If you have too many leftovers, give them to guests or freeze for later. Compost anything inedible, or give scraps to chickens — they eat almost everything.
¦Dates by which to sell or consume food are very conservative. Most items are fine for longer than it says on the container — check to see if they look, smell, and taste okay.
Recycling from the Kitchen
¦Rinse all cans, jars, bottles, cartons, and tubs to get food and liquids out before throwing in the recycling- a little residue is fine.
¦Rinsed off aluminum foil, pans, and pie plates can go in the recycling.
¦No plastic bags or wrap, black plastic, Styrofoam, or frozen food bags can go in the recycling.
¦Please, no napkins, paper towels, paper cups, paper plates, frozen food boxes, or soda and beer cartons in the recycling.
Thank you for reducing waste, and wishing you the happiest of holidays!
Mimi Kaplan is the waste reduction coordinator for the Town of Amherst Department of Public Works.