Reno Gazette-Journal: Recycle the Season: Here's How You Can Cut Holiday Waste Headed to Landfill

December 25, 2011

Five million extra tons of garbage are produced between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day in the United States each year as Americans discard mountains of packaging for everything from toys to food, according to the Center for a New American Dream. Gifts are shown being wrapped in newspaper.By Monday morning, wrapping paper, bows, wreaths, holly and mistletoe and a growing pile of cans and bottles will begin to seem overwhelming. 

What to do with the castoff wrappings and trappings of Christmas?  

Much of the excess can be recycled. 

"Christmas creates a lot of waste, such as wrappings and bulk items," said Deidre Kennelly, program director for Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.  

Americans' trash output grows 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, said Justin Caporusso, spokeman for Waste Management, which provides waste collection and recycling in the area. 

"A lot of it is recyclable," Caporusso said. "We see more paper, for instance, brought to the facility, more cans and bottles from holiday activities. The more you can divert, the better." 

 Minimizing and reusing items can help recycling efforts. At this time of year, consider gifts that leave no waste such as memberships or personal services like babysitting or housecleaning for family members, Caporusso said. 

 Reusable is a good word in recycling. Gift wrap and bows can be saved and used again next year. Or wrap gifts in newspaper -- the Sunday funny pages are colorful, Kennelly said. 

 "It's pretty and you can get creative," she said. 

 Reusing old decorative materials can look great, and it cuts down on what goes into the trash, she said. 

 Many people also are minimizing their use of boxes when wrapping presents as a way to reduce trash, Kennelly said. 

 Once the discards that you're not recycling are carted out to the trash can, make sure the lid is firmly closed so trash doesn't blow into the street if the wind picks up, Kennelly said. 

 Instead of overstuffing the can, remember that Waste Management will collect extra bags of trash from a residence. 

 Fresh Christmas trees can be recycled at Bartley Ranch and Rancho San Rafael regional parks in Reno and Shadow Mountain Sports Complex in Sparks Monday through Jan. 16. Other fresh greenery such as wreaths or boughs -- if not recycled for yard use such as mulch -- can be bundled and secured for street-side disposal, Caporusso said. 

 At mealtime, it's certainly easier to use paper plates and plastic utensils for meals, especially for informal, quick lunchs or snacks, but using everyday or special dishes and tableware eliminates throw-aways, Caporusso said. 

 "And people feel more welcome if you use your own plates," he said. "It's more formal." 

 If you bring a potluck contribution to someone's house, use a covered dish or storage container rather than a paper plate covered with tin foil or other disposable material, Caporusso said. 

 "Leftovers stored in throwaway containers or paper plates, and things like plastic tableware, those are the worst," he said.

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