The holidays? What a waste!According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate a whopping one million tons of household waste over and above the average during the time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
As the American public “consumes” its way toward Christmas, one has to wonder just how that onslaught of gifts, packaging, letters, Christmas trees and decorations affect the world at large. Well, wonder no more. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate a whopping one million tons of household waste over and above the average during the time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
In easier-to-understand terms, that’s a massive 25 percent spike in waste. With already over-crowded landfill space and an environment that’s on shaky grounds to begin with, it seems our world will soon be bursting at the seams in the name of holiday festivities.
That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, however. According to Heather Cunningham, Carlton County resource and recycling coordinator, there are some viable and highly cost-effective ways to mitigate the effects of this massive habit of “conspicuous consumerism.”
As you untangled last year’s mass of tree lights, for example, vowing to get rid of the “clinkers” and replace them with the new energy-efficient LED lights, did you toss the old ones in the garbage can just so you could be rid of them? With a little extra patience, you could hang on to them until you make your after-Christmas run to the Carlton County Transfer Station and recycle those unwanted lights for free up until Jan. 31, 2012.
Cat chew on the tree’s extension cord? Throw that in, too (the cord, not the cat!) to take advantage of the same offer. The transfer station is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Not only is the tree light recycling program an environmentally sound practice, but it also provides employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.
If you’re still in the closing throes of Christmas preparations, there are still some things you can do to reuse, recycle and otherwise minimize the impact of the uptick in seasonal waste. Cunningham cautions that while most traditional wrapping paper is difficult to recycle because of the fiber used to make the paper, it can be creatively reused – to line boxes, drawers or cupboards, to cover books, serve as scrapbook pages, or to frame photos or artwork. If you’re seeking recyclable alternatives to commercial wrapping paper, she suggests newspaper, sheet music, maps, fabric or brown shopping bags decorated by the little ones.
Or why not make the wrapping part of the gift and consider scarves, dish towels or handkerchiefs?
After Christmas, cards should be put in the paper recycling bin and not the trash, but they can also be reused in a variety of ways. Cunningham suggests cutting off the fronts and using them for after-Christmas thank you cards or for next year’s Christmas cards. For the computer-savvy bunch, e-cards can be considered in lieu of paper cards in the first place.
Most packaging materials such as foam, plastic ties, and other non-paper items are unfortunately non-recyclable, but plastic bags can be recycled at your neighborhood store along with your plastic grocery bags, and cardboard boxes can go to recycling as well.
Natural Christmas trees can be taken for “treecycling” at Sappi Fine Paper in Cloquet from Dec. 27 to Jan. 10 or the Moose Lake compost site (across from the city garage) during the same dates.
Once again, these gestures require a little extra vigilance on behalf of all of us, but they will more than pay off for your children’s and grandchildren’s futures. And that means a merrier Christmas for us all.