Kathy’s Corner: Plan to recycle and repurpose this holiday season

According to www.ecocycle.org, Americans create 25 percent more trash during the holidays. That trash is produced by excess food scraps, disposable plates, cups, etc. that don’t make it to a recycle bin, wrapping paper, and much more. However, we can all pitch in a bit with just a little advanced planning.

Gift bags/tissue: A trend of many years has been to “wrap” gifts using paper gift bags with colored tissue paper. How can this be turned into a positive move? Select a durable bag and just slightly crumple tissue that can be re-used by the receiver. Think how fun it could be to have the friend or family member gift something in return using the same bag!

Gift boxes: Many gift boxes today are already decorative and do not really need wrapping paper. If you decide to add ribbon or bows, be conservative. To make the boxes reusable, consider fewer pieces of tape or perhaps small “glue dots” that can be easily removed from inside the box lid after it is opened. If tape is used, a straight edge, scissors or a knife could cut the tape without tearing the box.

Gift wrap: There are so many beautiful, cute, trendy rolls of wrapping paper available! The foil wrapping paper can be especially bright and shiny. To be an effective recycler, however, consider using wrapping paper that can be placed in a recycling bin or used as kindling in the fireplace or wood-burning stove. Foil wrap cannot be recycled as “paper.” Also, consider using some type of alternative wrap—perhaps simply tie ribbon around the gift without paper.

Packaging peanuts/air bags: On-line orders may be received boxed up with packaging paper, foam peanuts or air bags inside. Some of these can be stored for future use- even to ship returns or exchanges.

Batteries: Most families will need at least a few batteries for new toys or electronics this Christmas. Consider purchasing re-chargeable batteries for those items you know will need to have batteries replaced often due to frequent use.

            Christmas cards: There are still many folks who send and receive annual Christmas/holiday cards this time of year. One suggestion for recycling these cards is to cut the card in two halves- save whichever side of the card that does not have handwriting on it. Tape a new front or back to the card where children can either create a new hand-drawn cover picture or write a personal greeting inside. There are many decorative types of Duct Tape or clear packaging tape may be used. Depending on the cover design, portions might be cut out and used as gift tags.

Storage space: A concern some may have about storing excess packaging and supplies from year-to-year is the lack of space and actually remembering what you do or do not have on hand. Some have opted to have one or more totes stored with Christmas decorations. If the container is stored elsewhere, an updated inventory can be placed with the decorations while the actual items may be elsewhere.

Live Christmas trees: Watch local newspapers and municipal newsletters for guidance on donating your tree after the holidays. Most trees are chipped and/or mulched. These are then donated back to the community for yard and garden use.

Electronics or small engines: Are you replacing a monitor, a laptop or perhaps an electric drill or saw? Anything with a small motor or electronic panel? Consider donating it to your local 4-H program for youth to use in “Maker” projects where youth learn to dissemble, repair, and/or rebuild items.

Cell phones/glasses: Instead of storing these items in a drawer where they will be forgotten and never used again, watch for opportunities to donate used cell phones to the military and prescription glasses to opticians who prepare them and donate to international humanitarian projects.

Choosing to do even one of the above suggestions- or coming up with something on your own- is a step in the right direction.


Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.


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