How to: Reduce Your Holiday Waste

How to: Reduce Your Holiday Waste

How to: Reduce Your Holiday Waste

Between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans throw away approximately an extra 5 billion tons more trash!  Gift wrap is a major contributor. Less than 10% of gift wrap is recyclable. A large majority of gift wrap ends up in the recycling bin. But this excess waste is not only gift wrap.  Food scraps, unwanted gifts, packaging, disposable dishes, and decorations are among the other contributors to this waste.

Our Holiday Waste Travels A Long Way- But Not For Much Longer!

Most of the items we’re tossing are items manufactured in China. Ironically, this is where a large majority of our waste ends up too.  Back where it came from. Americans export a significant amount of trash to be processed at facilities in China. Already countless sites have stopped taking plastics.  We’re literally drowning in plastic waiting to be recycled. (Not to mention the tons and tons that have ended up in our waterways) Recycling plants here in the US have more than they’re humanly capable of recycling now too.  Plastics are frequently thrown out from recycling facilities. The same seems to be coming for paper. China’s paper recycling facilities have started rejecting our recycling. Even the recyclable gift wrap may not be getting recycled in the coming years!

One man’s trash is no longer another man’s treasure.  It’s become the entire world’s trash.

Why Isn’t My Wrapping Paper Being Recycled?

If recycling facilities are still accepting paper, for the time being,  why isn’t it being recycled? Because most wrapping papers are made out of materials that cannot be recycled!

The following types of wrapping paper CANNOT be recycled:

-Shiny paper
-Paper with glitter
-Glossy paper
-Embossed paper
-Velvety paper

The same rule applies for Holiday cards.  Photo cards and cards with glue also cannot be recycled. This eliminates a large majority of gift wrap and cards.  Plain paper cards and gift wrap can be recycled. You can’t recycle bows, ribbons, bags, or most gift tags. Bows and ribbon can jam machines and, in some cases, totally ruin them. Tape can be left on gift wrap, in most cases.   Unrecyclable items that get into the recycling bin can cause an entire lot of recycling to need to be thrown out. So be mindful of what gets tossed into the recycling!

brown pinecone on white rectangular board
Most gift wrap can’t be recycled, choose a nice natural option or fabric instead

How to Reduce Your Waste this Holiday Season (and all year long)

If most of the items we use this time of year can’t be recycled, what can we do? Fortunately, there are easy solutions you can implement this year!

  • Reuse bows, ribbon, tissue paper, and tags from year-to-year.  Or switch to fabric!

  • Change your shopping habits- a large majority of the waste is packaging material. Shop from companies who use minimal and recyclable packing.  Put pressure on companies with wasteful packaging practices. Make sure to evaluate if a company is greenwashing you with their packaging claims too,  Or shop locally to avoid packaging at all.

  • Shop mindfully- When making purchases, consider how long they are likely to last. Thousands of gifts are thrown out within a year. Look for high-quality items or gifts with a lifetime guarantee.

candle celebration champagne christmas
Avoid disposable dishes.  Instead, purchase inexpensive dishes from a second-hand store for your guests.  You’ll save an incredible amount of money and waste over the years. If you’re tempted by the “compostable” dishes, make sure to check with your local composting facilities first.  Most facilities actually cannot compost these.
  • Gift experiences that require no packaging!

  • Separate non-recyclable parts from holiday cards.  Recycle the parts you can. Donate the rest of the card to a program like St. Judes.  Or use them to send Holiday greetings the next year, in crafts, or as decoration.  There are so many absolutely beautiful Holiday cards. Make a beautiful collage decoration for a gift next year!

  • Open gifts with care to reuse gift wrap the next year

  • Compost all your food waste.  Don’t have a compost bin? Contact your local health food store or farm to see if you can add your compost to their pile.  Be mindful of your food waste too. 30%-40% of food waste is still perfectly edible.

  • Millions of pounds of unwanted gifts are thrown away each year.  Unfortunately, many stores throw away returns. Even returning unwanted gifts can contribute to waste.  When purchasing gifts, make sure you’re gifting something the recipient actually wants and needs. If you receive a gift you do not want, donate it, sell on a local group, or pass it along to someone you know will love it.

  • Wrap gifts in fabric that can be reused year-to-year.

  • Use newspaper, children’s art, or magazines to wrap.

  • Wrap gifts in reusable boxes tins or baskets.

Reduce, reuse, refuse.  As we’ve discussed above, recycling is no longer a sustainable option.  These new ‘Rs’ can help you create a more sustainable holiday. Reduce your waste as much as possible- even recyclables!  Reuse items as long as possible- repairing them as needed for continued reuse.  Refuse cheap promotional items, holiday catalogs, ‘freebies’, etc. Together we can make a big impact in reducing our waste!

assorted plastic bottles
Recycling is becoming a less and less sustainable option each day- reduce, reuse and refuse!

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