Column: Use waste-free tips during holidays

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gift giving and reducing waste during the holiday season can be a challenge, even to people like me. Making certain everyone has an appropriate gift but trying to keep the waste from filling the trash bin means putting some thought into the holiday season and setting priorities.

There are many waste reduction ideas for holiday gifts and as I look through the articles I wrote in past years the lists are endless. An easy packaging &8220;fill&8221; in a box is not wads of newspaper, but popcorn. After the gift is opened, the popcorn can be spread out in the yard for birds and squirrels to eat.

If you are giving a tie, why not use it as the bow or cord to wrap the package? Using colorful newspapers, old road maps, a head scarf, towels or tablecloths you can make bright decorative wrapped packages. One colorful piece of paper I suggest is our Recycling Instruction Sheets, giving the subliminal &8220;recycling&8221; message containing information about how to recycle correctly.

Food is always the center of attraction when friends and family gather so put some thought into non-waste tableware. Using paper plates and disposable plastic eating utensils can fill the trash can quickly. Washing dishes takes time, but it can keep the garbage can from the overflow of holiday gatherings.

Things that are recyclable: It still surprises me the number of people who do not know that gift wrapping paper can be recycled. Obviously it will take up a lot of room in the sack if the paper is wadded into a ball, so flatten the paper and place it into a paper sack for recycling. All those boxes can be recycled too. Whether it’s called corrugated, boxboard, cardboard or brownboard, if it’s made from paper you can recycle it. Think about how to wrap gifts before hand and maybe some of those boxes can be used over and over again.

Ways to reduce waste: Giving someone a material gift is great but some may appreciate the gift of house cleaning, snow shoveling, hot air balloon ride, train ride, theater tickets, tickets to a sporting event or concert, gift certificate to a favorite eating place or magazine subscription.

People who live in apartments or small homes often prefer a non material gift like a car ride to the grocery store and people on limited incomes appreciate grocery store or movie theater gift certificates or even a membership gift to a fitness club.

Ways to increase recycling: Remember our motto. If it’s made from paper, it’s probably recyclable. Our recycling program will take just about anything made from paper. This includes old books (leave the hard covers on), magazines and all that junk mail. The exceptions are wax coated paper products like packaging of butter, bacon and TV dinners. I have been telling you to recycle those greeting cards and their envelopes, but wait. You may want to save some of them. Using a scissors, cut the cards to make identification labels for your holiday gift packages. Then recycle the end cuts from the cards. This is a great project for children and gives them ownership in the gift giving. Additionally, make certain that whatever you purchase as a gift has minimal packaging or at least packaging that can be recycled after it is given. Clothing is a good example of this. Some shirts come on a hanger and others are packaged in plastic surrounded by pins, paper, plastic and labels. You can purchase juice and fruit drinks for your guests in recyclable containers or make them from a powder base that creates less waste, use cloth napkins. Make certain you clean up with non-toxic household cleaners like vinegar, baking soda or just plain old soap. Merry Christmas from the Environmental Services Department.

(Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County Solid Waste Officer.)