Americans generate an average of 25 percent more waste during the holiday season than normal, equating to roughly 1,000 pounds of additional waste per household, Republic Services says.
Of that figure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that approximately 80 percent of the waste can be recycled or reused – and though sustainability often takes a backseat to more pressing obligations throughout the season, there are helpful ways to reduce waste. Republic offers the following tips to keep sustainability top of mind during the holiday season:
Save and reuse. Gift bags, ribbons and bows often survive the Christmas morning flurry of gift opening. Holding onto them is a smarter solution for the environment and a helpful way to get a jumpstart on supplies that will be useful for the next holiday season.
Recycle. Wrapping paper – even foiled, glittery patterns – can be recycled and repurposed for other paper-based products. Keep in mind that toy packaging made of heavy cardboard is not recyclable unless it is separated from plastic. Sticky gift tags are not recyclable by themselves, but are acceptable if attached to an envelope or wrapping paper.
Curb paper waste. Opt for personalized, digital greeting cards and gift certificates instead of physical copies. This option is more timely and produces no waste, and several online services offer a variety of greeting cards for free.
Use shredded paper for packaging. Old newspaper, magazines and scrap papers are less harmful, more sustainable and more personal than foam. Saving and reusing bubble wrap is another helpful way to reduce waste.
Avoid food waste. Make a list of what groceries will be needed in specific quantities.
Empty, clean and dry. Always make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry before placing them into the recycling container. Keeping recyclables free of contamination ensures that they will not be rejected during the sorting process and can be ultimately repurposed into new materials.
“The holidays are an exciting and hectic time of year for everyone,” said Andrew King, general manager of Republic Services. “Knowing what to recycle and how to properly dispose of your Christmas trees can be overwhelming. But there are some great opportunities throughout the season to make simple, sustainable choices. We hope these sustainability tips and remembering to follow ‘empty, clean and dry’ will help our customers to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible during the holidays.”