Now that the biggest commercial holiday has come and gone, families everywhere are preparing to return to business as usual. This holiday time doesn’t come without a cost though, and the main sufferer tends to be the environment.
Regardless of your post-holiday plans, consider all of the items you’ve used before you start cleaning up your home. Americans plow through wrapping paper, food, batteries, and more every holiday season, but rather than discarding these items, here are tips for repurposing and recycling your holiday waste!
If you’re one to tear through present after present, you probably found yourself surrounding by piles and piles of balled-up wrapping paper every Christmas. Think twice before grabbing that trash can, and pull out the blue recycling bin instead. Over 100,000 square yards of wrapping paper are used at Christmastime each year, so send it to the recycling bin instead of the landfill.
Believe it or not, you can reuse your old wrapping paper in more ways than one. Next time you wrap those clothes boxes, wrap the top and bottom pieces individually, so you can use the pre-wrapped boxes year after year. Also, if you have the forethought to unwrap your gifts more deliberately, you can fold or roll up the used wrapping paper and use it the following year. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance alternative, consider fabric ReWrapables instead.
It’s hard to eat the same meal every day, but the holidays tend to leave plenty of excess food for leftovers. If you’re not the type to plow through leftover ham, repurpose it for a fresh meal. You can make sandwiches, gooey grilled cheese, stews, and more with leftover holiday food. If you keep your served food separated, consider donating the extras to food recovery services, or send the scraps to Food-to-Livestock and Food-to-Animal programs.
What will you do with the decaying tree in your living room? Most people throw it out with the garbage, or let it decompose in the woods, but what if you could compost it, or turn it to mulch? Many cities now offer paid and free recycling services, and turn your Christmas tree into nutrient-dense compost or biodegradable mulch. Contact your local waste management company to find out what government or private companies in your area will recycle your Christmas tree!
Now that you’ve got brand-new bamboo jackets, scarves, pants, and more, what to do with your old clothes? Rather than letting old clothes accumulate in your closet or attic, send them off to be recycled or donated. There are many organizations that accept donated clothes only to sell them to third-world countries at a profit, so several people prefer to recycle them. Contact the manufacturer first; some companies, such as Patagonia, will take your old clothes back and recycle them for use in their own factories. You can also look for clothes recycling programs such as Wearable Collections, and Looptworks, which offer no-cost solutions for recycling clothing. These methods either strip and repurpose abandoned materials, or distribute used clothing around the world, and raise money for charitable organizations.
After opening that brand-new computer or iPhone, what to do with the old misfits? With new models of old favorites popping up every year, Christmas has become a time to upgrade to the latest and greatest technology. Don’t throw those old electronics away. You can recycle most cell phone and electronics at stores such as Best Buy, donate them to charitable thrift shops such as Good Will, or find recycling programs in your area that tear apart old electronics and repurpose the individual components.
Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, and the dumping of lead-acid and alkaline batteries results in water pollution and soil contamination. From old cell phone and camera batteries, to your standard Duracell AA’s, around 97% of materials in batteries can be harvested and repurposed. Rather than throwing your batteries in the garbage, set them aside and recycle them appropriately. Most cities offer battery recycling programs, and you can often find bins at your local library or civic center that accept old batteries. Don’t add to the destruction of the environment this holiday season when you’ve got alternative recycling programs available!