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December 27, 2023

Christmas Waste Recycling

Tips for an Environmentally-Friendly Post-Christmas Clean Up!

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Christmas tree composting area on the street.

iStockPhoto / Baloncici

During the festive Christmas season, households inevitably generate a lot of waste from gifts, decorations, food, and more. One way we can make our Christmas more sustainable and reduce our environmental footprint is by embracing the idea of recycling Christmas waste.

Here are some tips from SANTA.COM on responsibly dealing with some of the biggest Christmas waste culprits of the holiday season. 

Christmas Tree Recycling

It seems like only yesterday that the Christmas tree was being decorated, lit, and gazed upon in awe. Now that the party is over, it’s time to dispose of the dried-out fire hazard that’s dropping needles all over your family room. 

Most local municipalities provide curbside pickup for Christmas tree recycling and Christmas tree disposal, ensuring they're disposed of responsibly and often mulched for use in local parks. Another option could be to donate your tree to a local farm or conservation center, where it can be used for erosion control or wildlife habitat. Check with your local sanitation department for Christmas tree pickup schedules in your area.

Recycle Centerpieces

When it comes to centerpieces like flowers or fruit arrangements, you can compost them at home if they're all organic materials. On the other hand, non-organic items like ribbons, bows, and baskets can often be reused as part of crafts or decor for the next holiday season. Additionally, there are various recycling centers or green waste collection services that take organic waste, including your city green waste garbage bins.

Recycle Christmas Lights 

While Christmas lights can bring much joy, their disposal after they’ve reached their lifespan is often challenging. Disposal of Christmas lights in landfills may lead to harmful toxins leaching into the soil due to their lead and plastic components, which is why Christmas light recycling is so important. 

Many recycling facilities and e-waste programs accept old Christmas lights and properly dispose of them by separating and processing the valuable metals inside like copper. Some stores even offer trade-in deals, giving you discounts for your new lights. 

Recycle Batteries

With every Christmas toy, electronic device, and battery-operated gift, many households are left with a pile of old batteries that need to be disposed of. It’s important that any used batteries are not simply thrown in the regular trash. Batteries contain harmful substances such as lead, cadmium, zinc, lithium and even mercury, which can pollute soil and water, harming wildlife and human health. This is why recycling old batteries is an essential task after Christmas. 

Many towns and cities offer recycling centers or e-waste drop-off points where you can dispose of batteries safely. Even stores like Target will take your old batteries. It’s a small but significant step that individuals can take to protect the environment. 

Recycle or Reuse Gift Bags and Wrapping Paper

It's worth remembering that many gift bags can be reused. Save them and bring them out for next year's Christmas or another special occasion. However, if gift bags or holiday wrapping are too damaged for reuse, they can often be recycled with your other paper products. Just ensure they don’t have any glitter, foil, or plastic attached, which cannot be recycled. 

Of course, to eliminate paper waste all together, you can be proactive by using creative wrapping techniques that don’t involve paper or tape, but reusable items that will keep waste out of landfills.

Old Toys

When new toys come in, consider donating old toys to local charities, or give them away on sites like Buy Nothing. Ensuring the toys get a second life not only helps less fortunate children but also contributes to reducing landfill waste.

Unwanted Christmas Gifts

If you can’t return a gift to the store, consider starting a regifting box. To be sure you never give the gift to the person who gave it to you, put a sticky note on the gift with the name of the person who gifted it, along with the year you received it. Someone might cross your future gift list who would be perfect for a treasure from the box! 

Regifting boxes are also great places to grab White Elephant gifts for office or neighborhood holiday swaps. And don’t forget online options for giveaways mentioned throughout this article. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Leftover Food

Waste from excessive food prepared during Christmas is another big post-holiday issue. Churches or homeless shelters often accept donations of unopened, non-perishable food. If you have a lot of leftovers, you might also consider composting at home, or exploring apps like Olio that connect neighbors to share surplus food and other items.

Websites for Recycling

Giving is an important part of the holiday spirit. There are various platforms and websites to recycle, sell or gift your unused or unwanted items. The Buy Nothing project on Facebook is an international social movement promoting waste reduction by encouraging members to gift items to neighbors they no longer need. Websites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace are great sites to sell or list items for free.

Post-Holiday Garbage Day

Since holidays can often disrupt trash pickup schedules, be sure to contact your local sanitation department or Waste Management office for bulk trash pickup, waste management holidays and waste management holiday schedules.

Let’s all do our part to make Christmas celebrations more environmentally friendly. Not only is recycling a responsible action to preserve our environment, but it's also a message of true holiday spirit, valuing what we have, sharing with those in need, and thinking about our planet's future. Remember, every small step towards waste recycling counts! And it will put you on Santa’s Nice list next year!

SANTA.COM… MAKING HAPPY HAPPEN™

Environmentally Friendly Gifts From SANTA.COM


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