Let’s say you were good this year and received some nice holiday gifts.
Of course you want to keep your streak going, and place as much of your packaging, wrapping and other holiday leavings as you can in your recycling cart; that’s a choice that will keep you on some “nice” lists.
People generate about 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
However, before you stuff all your cardboard and paper into your recycling bin, you might want to check Olmsted County Environmental Resources’ list, and check it twice.
What is fine:
Cardboard — Empty and flatten boxes.
Cards and envelopes — Can be recycled as long as they don’t contain glitter
Catalogs and magazines
That’s about all that curbside recyclers will accept, along with the usual recyclable material, such as glass, plastic bottles and office paper. Wrapping paper is generally too low quality and contaminates the recyclable paper collected by Olmsted County and other curbside recyclers, said Anthony Wittmer, spokesman for Olmsted County Environmental Resources.
That doesn’t mean everything else is destined for the landfill or incinerator. In fact, some items people might want to part with this time of year need to stay out of the garbage.
Rechargeable batteries — Putting these in the garbage is a fire hazard; they should be taken to the Olmsted County Hazardous Waste Facility.
Old cellphones. They also contain rechargeable batteries and need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility.
Some things can be taken to be recycled, but not left in your curbside bin.
String lights can be recycled for free at the Olmsted Recycling Center Plus.
Real trees can be composted for free at the Olmsted composting site.
If you want to stay off Wittmer’s naughty list, don’t try to put your old strings of lights in your recycling bin. They can tangle up and jam sorting machines. You can drop them off at the recycling center for no charge.
Also free of charge is composting real Christmas trees. Remove tinsel, lights and decorations. The compost center will accept trees at no charge through March.
Those are the most common items that tend to end up in the wrong place this time of year.
Packing material, such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and air pillows can be saved and used again. You can also drop them off at shipping stores. For Minnesota drop-off locations, see The Peanut Hotline.
The best way to keep wrapping paper, bows and tissue out of the garbage is to reuse it. Gift bags are a no-brainer for reuse if they’re treated with care and aren’t written on. (My sister and I have been exchanging the same bags for the better part of a decade.)
The MPCA has other advice for reusing holiday items and food at www.pca.state.mn.us/holiday-waste.
It’s the season of giving, so let’s give a little back to future generations and the life we share this planet with.
John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.