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December 24, 2013 > Have yourself an eco-friendly holiday season

Have yourself an eco-friendly holiday season

Submitted By Tawny Valentine

ItÕs that time of year again! The holiday season is in full effect, which means that presents are being passed around, and your trash bins will be filled to the rim with extra waste to dispose of. DonÕt be so quick to toss these items in the trash, because a lot of them can actually be recycled. Use your community curbside drop-off programs, or other local recycling outlets to recycle your seasonal goods, including foam packaging, wrapping paper, holiday lights, gift boxes, seasonal trees and more.

Here are five common items to recycle:

1. Wrapping Paper: Many people do not realize this product is recyclable. You do have to be careful however, because not all types can be recycled. For instance, if you use traditional gift- wrapping, avoid foil or metallic papers, as they cannot be recycled. Still, most paper, either through curbside programs or local drop-off centers, can be readily recycled. To make recycling wrapping paper simple and convenient, be prepared when exchanging gifts by having a bag ready, this way, when everyone starts tearing through their presents under the tree, you can easily divert the scraps into one convenient location. And for that foil or metallic paper that isnÕt recyclable, save it to re-use next year, or use it for other purposes; wrapping paper scraps make great packaging or craft material.

2. Cardboard: From seasonal cards to packaging and gift boxes, cardboard items can really pile up! Start a new holiday tradition this year and make sure to not throw the cardboard in the trash Ð give it a second chance at life and recycle it. Most curbside recycling programs collect cardboard, but if your hauler does not, make sure to check where your nearest recycling drop-off center is. Additionally, to save the precious space in your curbside bin, you can break down your boxes so that they become flat. The cardboard boxes you recycle will one day turn into paper bags, paperboard packaging and new cardboard boxes.

3. Foam Packaging, Cups, and Food Containers: From electronic packaging, to cups that keep your hot chocolate extra warm, there is sure to be no shortage of this recyclable material throughout the season. Polystyrene foam can be identified by a #6 Ð PS symbol, often found at the bottom of the material. It has a wide variety of uses, from the large molded blocks used to package electronics, such as TVs and computers, to food service packaging, including foam cups, bowls, egg cartons and ÒclamshellÓ take-out containers. Not all cities in California accept foam in their curbside recycling bins or at neighborhood drop-off facilities, but many have been adding it, so check with your city to see if it is accepted where you live. Every day, foam is being recycled into beautiful picture frames, crown molding, baseboards, nursery packaging, and school supplies like pens and rulers. It is important to know that while block-packaging foam can be recycled, youÕll need to bring your foam packing peanuts to your local box and delivery stores. But make sure to call first to ensure they will accept them! For more information about foam recycling in your area, visit

4. Holiday Lights: So, what can we do with those old or no longer-working strings of holiday lights? Should we put them in the trash? No, because they can be recycled. In fact, there are programs in place that allow for you to ship your old lights for recycling, but you can also check with your local recycling center or hardware store to see if you can drop them off there. When the holiday lights are recycled, they are put though a commercial shredder, which chops them up into little pieces. The pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights. The materials are then separated and transported to a region center for further processing. For more information, visit

5. Holiday Trees and Wreaths: Many folks are often confused about what to do with their used trees and wreaths. Well, there are many different ways that your community could be recycling these items. If you want to recycle your tree in your green (yard waste) container, then you can cut up your tree into small pieces. However if that is something that you do not have the ability to do, many communities will collect trees curbside for two weeks after Christmas or offer free drop-off locations. Before you recycle your tree or wreath make sure to remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and other non-organic decorative materials. For more information, visit

As you can see, many seasonal items can be given a second chance at life. It is important to remember, when it comes to recycling, every community is different, so take a little time to spread some holiday cheer by helping the environment, and do some research to make sure youÕre recycling all of the holiday materials accepted in your community. Check with your local solid waste and recycling office about your neighborhoodÕs recycling options. If items are not accepted in your community, then look online to find companies that will take your items.

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