Statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that during the holiday season, the average American family throws away 25 percent more trash than they usually do.
Think about your household: could some of this trash be reduced, reused, recycled or composted? Reducing holiday trash can help households save money on “Pay As You Throw” town trash stickers or bags, reduce carbon and methane emissions, and protect the environment.
Wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper and greeting cards/envelopes are all recyclable. However, paper items that contain glitter, wire, metallic inks or foil are not acceptable. Tape and labels are OK. Remove batteries from singing greeting cards before recycling the card.
Do not include the following items in household recycling: ribbons, bows, tinsel, glossy photo cards, holiday light strings, Christmas tree netting, bubble wrap, paper envelopes lined with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, Styrofoam, plastic shipping envelopes, plastic bags and plastic “blister pack” packaging (formed plastic used to package toys, etc.)
Holiday light strings, power cords and Christmas tree netting are not acceptable in municipal recycling programs because they get wrapped around and jammed in the sorting equipment. However, holiday light strings are accepted for recycling at scrap metal dealers and in the scrap metal dumpsters at town transfer stations.
Clean, dry packing materials such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, Styrofoam sheets and inflatable “air pillow” packaging are accepted free for reuse at The UPS Store in Greenfield.
For a holiday recycling guide from the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility, visit bit.ly/3rt6HfU.
Another way to reduce holiday trash is by composting food and paper waste generated from holiday meals. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s 2019 Waste Characterization Study, compostable material such as food and paper waste makes up 28 percent of the residential trash in Massachusetts.
The municipal compost programs at the transfer stations in Bernardston, Conway, Deerfield, Greenfield (open to non-residents), Leverett, New Salem, Northfield, Orange, Wendell and Whately accept all types of food waste (no liquids), including meat, bones and cheese, plus paper waste such as paper napkins, paper towels and more. While it is free to compost, permits may be required.
The Franklin County Solid Waste Management District sells discounted “Earth Machine” home compost bins and compost pails to district residents. For details and pricing, visit franklincountywastedistrict.org/compostbinsales.html.
Additionally, check with your town about Christmas tree recycling. Your tree may be recycled as mulch.
Amy Donovan is program director with the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.