Increase of Waste During Holidays

(Published on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, in The Daily Citizen, Dalton, GA.)

Recycle & Reuse: Increase of Waste During Holidays

Reusing gift bags and recycling wrapping paper are simple things we can do to reduce waste during the holiday season.

Reusing gift bags and recycling wrapping paper are simple things we can do to reduce waste during the holiday season.

As we prepare for the holidays it’s important to note that this is the most wasteful time of year. Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week. Gift wrapping paper, packaging, gift bags, food wrappers, decorations, gifts and more are all part of the extreme amounts of garbage seen during winter.


A whole lot of this excess waste can be reused if we plan ahead and have reuse in mind as we participate in the festivities. It’s estimated that if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. And, if every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.


Other ways to reuse include saving gift bags, ribbons, bows, tissue paper, paperboard boxes, and gift wrapping paper for next year. Some of the items will clearly have a Christmas theme and should be folded and stored for next year. However, some items will have a solid color or a simple pattern that could be reused for birthdays and other holidays. For example, you could reuse a red and white gift bag for Valentines Day in February, or save ribbons for making crafts.


Gift wrapping supplies made of paper can be recycled if they’re clean and dry. Paper supplies that can be recycled include gift wrap, greeting cards, gift tags, gift bags, paperboard boxes, and cardboard boxes. The only exception is paper with glitter or metallic embellishments. Non-paper handles and plastic tags from gift bags should be removed before recycling. Recycle these along with the newspaper, magazines, and other mixed paper products in your recycling bin.


Another area to reduce the amount of garbage we make during the holidays is food. As you plan your holiday meals select recipes that will feed the number of people you’re expecting, then buy only the food you’ll actually use. Separate food scraps for composting if you have a compost bin at home. Serve food in reusable plates instead of disposable plates, along with reusable cups and cutlery. If you’re serving drinks from plastic bottles, glass bottles, or aluminum cans set them aside for recycling.


The highlight of the holidays for many is the exchanging of gifts. While most of the packaging and wrapping paper can be reused or recycled, what about the gifts themselves? Sometimes a new gift is replacing an older model which gives us yet something else to throw away. If you have an old electronic device to get rid of, consider recycling it instead of throwing it away.


The Old Dixie Hwy. Landfill and Convenience Center has a collection box set out year round for all kinds of gadgets ranging from mp3 players to laptops. Or drop off your electronics on Saturday, January 9 at The Home Depot in Dalton between 8 am and 1 pm where Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful will be collecting live Christmas trees and electronics for recycling.


If you receive a gift that you don’t want to keep, consider reusing it by re-gifting instead of throwing it away. Depending on what it is you could give it to someone for their birthday or another special event during the year. If you plan on re-gifting don’t commit the dreaded faux pas of giving the gift back to the person that gave it to you in the first place. Get a post-it or scrap paper to make a note that lists the name of the person who gave you the item, and the name of the person or individuals you may want to give it to later.


If re-gifting feels too strange simply surprise a friend or loved one with a gift, unwrapped and with no special occasion in mind. You could also donate the items clothing, toys, cell phones, and more can be to local charities, churches, clubs, and individuals you know. Call ahead to get a list of items they typically will accept. Some organizations will require that all donations be new, while others accept things that are gently used and in good condition.


Finally, if you’re comfortable doing so, gather a group of family and friends and invite them to swap unwanted gifts or gently used items they want to get out of the house. Themed swaps are usually more successful since participants know what to expect. You could organize a toy swap, book swap, and even a clothing swap depending on what you have to exchange.