Every holiday season, Americans unknowingly wreak havoc on their local recycling facilities by placing the wrong items in their blue carts. Although their intentions are good (recycling is a clear way to mitigate climate change), the cost of dealing with those misplaced items is alarming and can quickly turn any recycling worker into a Grinch. And, with the amount of garbage increasing by 25 percent from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, there is a lot of room for error.
Experts at The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit that applies corporate funding from more than 30 major U.S. brands to improve recycling operations in cities and towns across the country, have pulled together a list of the top recycling tips for the holiday season:
- Keep the planet in mind while wrapping your gifts. Purchase wrapping paper made with recycled materials and that will also be recyclable. Many cities and towns accept non-metallic/glitter wrapping paper. If yours does, toss that paper in the recycling cart after you open your gifts.
- Put out the recycling bin during parties. Make it easy for guests to recycle their glass bottles and aluminum cans by putting the recycling bin next to the trash can.
- Holiday lights and tinsel belong on the naughty list. Stringy decorations like holiday lights and tinsel look good on trees but create a mess once inside recycling facilities. A costly nuisance, lights and tinsel should be thrown into the trash.
- Recycle your cardboard. On Christmas morning, living rooms across the world can look a lot like an Amazon warehouse. When you’re done unwrapping your gifts, be sure to break down the boxes and put them in your recycling cart.
- Choose experiences over products. When deciding on what to get your loved ones for the holidays, consider looking beyond material goods. Gifting an experience, like concert tickets, a long weekend out of town, or a donation to their favorite charity in their name, reduces waste and makes lasting memories.
- Shop sustainably. More brands than ever before are using recycled materials in their products. When shopping for your holiday gifts this season, consider choosing brands that are made with ocean plastic, reused fibers, or recycled paper.
- Bring your own shopping bag. Plastic bags are big troublemakers for the sorting equipment at recycling facilities. Use a low-cost reusable shopping bag every time you head to the grocery store or mall. Or, if you use those plastic bags, but be sure to bring them back to the store for recycling.
- Recycle your old gadgets. Get a shiny new computer or phone this holiday season? Don’t toss out your old model – recycle it responsibly by bringing it to your local electronic recycling drop-off. Many towns and companies host these drop-offs, or find a local charity that is collecting usable electronics for those in need.
- Rinse your recyclables. Before you toss your empty eggnog carton into your blue bin, make sure to give it a quick rinse. Hit the big stuff – gloppy food waste and the like – then recycle.
- Check your recycling day. The holidays may alter the days that your town or city is picking up trash and recyclables. Check the website of your local recycling program to make sure you put your cart out on the right day.
Clearing up the confusion about which holiday goods are recyclable can have impressive impacts on local recycling programs.