Holiday Trash: A Pre-emptive Strike

It’s not happening: me, dog-paddling in a sea of holiday waste, straining to keep my head above holiday STUFF. It seeps into our homes with the incoming tide of family and friends toting gifts and food. It pours through our mail slot – sales catalogues and shiny advertising bearing news of post-holiday sales for more STUFF. It can pile up as Christmas gets un-wrapped, leaving heaps of cardboard, wrapping paper, ribbons, and worn out decorations.

I favor a pre-emptive strike before the waste-generating machine cranks into full production.

Food overload? I’m armed with clean peanut butter jars and food bags to share the wealth with departing guests. It’s much easier to re-gift food leftovers (do not take no for an answer) if they’re neatly packaged for transport. Food scraps galore? We keep a small scrap bucket by the sink. For big crowds, a clean, lidded kitty litter bucket double-lined with 2 paper grocery bags captures plate scrapings, bones, stale chips and dip. My cold entryway serves as a second refrigerator, but it’s also where we store the big food scrap bucket. A cold porch or unheated garage keeps food scraps chilled and odor-free until it’s convenient to drop them off (free) at a WLSSD food waste drop site. Remember – no regular plastic bags allowed.

Years ago we invested in a storage tub’s-worth of durable gift bags for easy, reusable gift wrapping. Scoop them up at post-holiday sales and you’re set for the coming years. If buying gift wrap, choose paper that can be recycled (avoid foil and glitter.) We repurpose old road and National Geographic maps as gift wrap; they’re recyclable, too. Before the unwrapping commences, we set up a series of labeled boxes, grocery sacks and zipper lock bags to collect each type of wrapping material. I maintain a semblance of order by sorting the spent wrapping materials as soon as a gift is unwrapped. My family complies with the wrapping paper tyrant’s orders to “…hand over the ribbons and flatten those gift bags!” Here’s my sorting strategy:

Wire ribbon: coil up and bind with a twist tie; store in a clear zipper bag
Ready-made bows: save the good (zipper bag), trash the bad
Pasteboard shirt boxes: flatten to store
Reusable gift bags: flatten to store

Plain paper wrapping and paper gift bags (no plastic, foil, mylar, glitter, tissue, plastic handles)
Corrugated cardboard and pasteboard shirt boxes
Paper greeting cards without glitter, plastic, electronics/batteries
Shiny inserts, catalogues, junk mail
Metal cookie tins
Clean plastic bags – Not in regular recycling! Drop-off locations are listed under “plastic bags” in the WLSSD Disposal Guide.

Curling, satin and wire ribbons and bows
Foil, tissue, glitter and mylar wrapping paper
Food-soiled paper/boxes
Evergreen garland and wreaths

And when it’s time for the decorations to come down, treecyling is available at several locations in the region. Evergreen garlands and wreaths go in the trash, as most have wires and clips not suited for composting. Non-working holiday lights and trees can go to the Materials Recovery Center and other area collection sites operated by Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store. WLSSD’s yard waste compost site will be open for holiday tree drop off starting December 22nd.

By Susan Darley-Hill, Environmental Program Coordinator at WLSSD