What to do with all that wrapping paper?

Published 11:42 am Thursday, December 6, 2012

Column: By Randy Tuchtenhagen, Solid Waste Officer

The holiday gifting season is here, and we need to put some thought into how all the extra waste generated will be managed. Yes, we can recycle a lot, but what about the things we cannot recycle and the food waste?

Composting is often received with a mix of interest. We have a vision of flies, odor and extra work. Maybe!

Randy Tuchtenhagen

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Composting is pretty easy and if you follow a couple of very simple rules can it can be successful in reducing waste and getting back valuable compost for your garden or flower bed.

If you go to a computer website about composting, there are hundreds of ideas and options. The most important things are that you cannot compost meat, dairy or acid fruit peels from oranges or grapefruit. Otherwise you can easily compost coffee grounds and filters, waxy-coated paper products from the refrigerator/freezer (you know the ones you cannot recycle), apple cores, potato and carrot peels, fruits and vegetables, etc.

You can use a five-gallon pail or a 55-gallon barrel. It’s easy. Turning it every few days will speed up the compost action, but I never touch my container and leave it to compost at a slow rate. Just lazy I guess. Dump it out a couple times a year and restart the process with any un-composted materials from the top.

Gift cards have become very popular in recent years, and they certainly do not generate a lot of unnecessary waste. The person receiving the card also benefits by purchasing the exact item, color and size of gift they desire. Result: Reduced waste.

As I have encouraged in past years, a gift certificate for snow shoveling, a subscription to the local newspaper or favorite magazine, house cleaning, lawn mowing, rides to the grocery store or other services people may appreciate and do not create waste.

Check the “recycling information and instruction” sheets for items that are recyclable and the ones that are not. They can be found on the Freeborn County website at www.co.freeborn.mn.us or call our office at 377-5186 and we can send one to you. We accept the wrapping paper from gifts, but do not want the Styrofoam packaging materials that may be inside. We will accept envelopes with the plastic window in place and tissue boxes with the plastic glued inside the opening. They are not an issue. We do not want plastic bags, of any kind, but they can be recycled at the grocery store.

The end of the year and all the holidays that accompany them are a time when large volumes of waste accumulate. This is also a time when garbage cans are overflowing and the hauling companies may put extra charges on your bill for the excess garbage. If you have been successful in reducing waste and reduced the size of container you normally use, the chances of receiving an extra charge on your garbage bill decrease.

Put some thought into waste reduction. Not only will you save a little money but the extra material going to the recycling collection program adds value. It will also help to reduce the more than 20,000 tons of trash we send to a landfill from our county each year.

Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.