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What to Do With All the Junk

By Eva Wallace

kitten-in-paperNow that the holidays are over, we find ourselves buried up to our necks in wrapping paper, cards, packing materials, disposable plates and utensils, and old dry trees. I found some great tips on recycling all the mounds of holiday waste by Sarah Linn at sanluisobispo.com.

• Bags and boxes
Paper gift, grocery and shopping bags go in the blue recycling container supplied by local trash companies. To recycle plastic bags, drop them off at local grocery stores. You’ll find designated bins near the front doors of most stores.
Flatten boxes, place them in the blue recycling container or stack them neatly next to the bin.
Another idea: U-Haul invites folks to drop boxes off at company locations for other families to use, free of charge. You can advertise the availability of unwanted boxes through uhaul.com/boxexchange.

• Dinnerware
To save energy, wash china and flatware by hand, or load dishes into the washer using “water miser” and “air dry” settings.
Plates, cups and other disposable dishware are recyclable if they’re made of paper or “rigid” non-Styrofoam plastic.
Rinse or scrape off excess food before recycling.
Plastic forks, knives and spoons, on the other hand, cannot be recycled. The most eco-friendly solution is to wash and reuse.
To maintain air quality, plastic flatware and used paper napkins should not be burned.

• Food
“Pre-consumer” food scraps — uncooked vegetable waste such as potato peels, carrot tops and apple cores—can go in the green yard waste container or your backyard compost bin.

• Gift wrap
Wrapping paper contains heavy pigments and metallic inks that make it impossible to recycle. What’s more, presents are often covered with plastic tape, ribbons and bows.
Burning the stuff, especially cellophane and plastic gift wrap, can release harmful chemicals into the air. Don’t chuck gift wrap in the garbage can. Save it for next year’s birthdays, anniversaries and bar mitzvahs.

• Greeting cards
Most greeting cards are recyclable in the blue bin, except for the ones that that play “Jingle Bells.” Singing greeting cards have metal and computer chips in them and are considered “household hazardous waste,” illegal to dump.
They should be taken to a hazardous waste site. Check your local listings for a site near you. Old greeting cards can also double as holiday decorations, gift tags or postcards.

• Lights
Local companies do not recycle holiday lights, but a Michigan company will accept strands of incandescent bulbs through the end of January.
Send your old lights to HolidayLEDS.com, 120 W. Michigan Ave., Suite 1403, Jackson, MI 49201. Call 1- 888-430-6551 or visit www.holidayleds.com.

• Packing materials
Bags of clean Styrofoam packing peanuts can be dropped off at shipping stores including UPS and Mail Boxes, Etc.
Some stores also accept bubble wrap, air bags and Styrofoam inserts.

• Packages
Rigid plastic packages now encase everything from action figures to video game controllers. Luckily, they’re recyclable.
Remove the cardboard insert from the plastic before placing it in the blue bin to ensure that both plastic and cardboard are recycled.
Foam plastic, known commonly as Styrofoam, cannot be recycled. It can be reused.

• Christmas trees
After removing tinsel, lights, ornaments and tree stands, cut the tree into pieces no longer than four feet and place in curbside green waste containers. Many local groups also collect trees for woodchips, compost and mulch. The same goes for wreaths, garlands and other greenery — be sure to remove any wire forms first.
Check earth911.org for a list of tree recyclers. Flocked trees must be dumped. Reuse faux trees or donate them to local thrift stores.

• Tree stands
Recycle metal and plastic tree stands—free of tree sap and other debris — in the blue bin.

• Unwanted presents
Instead of letting that ugly sweater or singing toy fish rot in your closet, give unwanted gifts to charities such as Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, or a local thrift store in your area.

Posted December 31, 2007, filed in It's That Time, Where to give it away, Less is More

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2 Comments

From Deanna, January 2 2008

Greeting cards — many schools and day cares will accept old greeting cards as they can use them for room decorations or children's crafts the next year.

From Eva Wallace, January 2 2008

That's a great idea, Deanna - thanks!

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