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Issues Of The Environment: What To Do With Holiday Waste

Recycle Ann Arbor

Another holiday season has come and gone, which means vacations, New Year's resolutions, and holiday waste.  So, as the waste piles up, what are the most environmentally friendly means of disposal?  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair gets some trash-removing tips from Angela Porta, who is the outreach and zero waste coordinator for Recycle Ann Arbor.


  • According to Use Less Stuff (ULS), between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, there is a 25% increase in trash generated in the United States - that’s 1 million extra pounds per week!
  • Angela Porta, Outreach and Zero Waste Coordinator for Recycle Ann Arbor, says, “We can reduce our impact on the environment during the holidays with a little bit of planning and creativity.”
  • Before the holidays, pre-planning can go a long way in helping reduce food waste and gift-related wastes.  After the holidays, find ways to reuse materials yourself or considering donating to a local thrift store for someone else to reuse.  Recycle and properly dispose of remaining items.
  • Angela says that there are many resources available in Washtenaw County to properly recycle and dispose of holiday waste items such as holiday lights, Christmas trees, electronics, textiles and bubble wrap.  She will give advice on what the best practices are for preventing waste and inform our listeners where they can take the excess.

Winter Holiday ReUse & Recycling Guide 2018 for Washtenaw County

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle this Holiday Season

Batteries - Rechargeable: Unusable rechargeable batteries & button batteries can be taken to the Drop-Off Station or to the Recovery Yard.

Bubble Wrap: Save quality bubble wrap to be reused.  If the wrap cannot be reused it should be taken to the Drop-Off Station.

Electronics: Many replaced, working electronics can be donated to the ReUse Center.  Items that cannot be reused can be taken to the Drop-Off Station or Recovery Yard.

Cardboard: Reuse cardboard as often as possible before placing in your curbside bin.  If you have a quantity too large for the cart, it can be taken to the Drop-Off Station or the Recovery Yard.

Paper Gift Bags: Keep for reuse.  If they're not suitable for reuse they can be placed in your curbside recycling cart.

Christmas Trees: From Dec. 14th, 2018 to Jan. 31st, 2019, Christmas trees can be taken to the following parks between 6 am and 10 pm: West Park, Gallup Park, Olson Park, & Southeast Area Park.  More info at a2gov.org/recycle.  PLEASE NOTE: The Drop-Off Station is NOT the location for Christmas tree drop-off as it has been in the past.

Artificial Christmas Trees: Please donate artificial Christmas trees that are in usable condition to the Reuse Center.  Artificial Christmas trees made of plastic and metal can be recycled at the Drop Off Station.  PLEASE NOTE: if your artificial tree is composed of too many materials or has wooden elements, it cannot be recycled.

Food Waste: Unopened non-perishable items can be donated to Food Gatherers.  Compost items at home - see the City of Ann Arbor's Composting Guide.

Plastic Bags: Reuse for as long as possible.  Larger quantities can be taken to the Drop-Off Station and area grocery stores, such as Kroger and Meijer.

Greeting Cards: Reuse cards in craft projects or donate the front page to the Scrapbox on State Circle in Ann Arbor.  The back page can be placed in your curbside recycling cart for recycling.  NOTE: Cards with foil or metallic features can't be recycled curbside.

Replaced Items: Including sporting goods, books, and electronics.  Donate any usable items to the ReUse Center.  Items that can't be reused can be taken to the Drop-Off Station or Recovery Yard.

Styrofoam Packaging: Can be taken to the Drop-Off Station.

Textiles: Reusable, good textiles can go to one of the Ann Arbor's many thrift stores.  Torn or stained textiles can be taken to the Drop-Off Station.

Wrapping Paper: Save quality paper for reuse.  Torn, crumbled wrapping paper can be placed in the curbside recycling bin.  Foil or metallic paper can NOT be recycled and should be reused. You can also wrap your gifts in reusable fabric.  Check out craftsy.com for ideas.

Christmas Lights: Try to fix them first.  If they cannot be fixed, the Drop-Off Station and Recovery Yard will accept them.

Be Waste Aware This Season

Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle this Holiday: Reducing your impact on the environment while saving money this season only takes a few changes to habits.

Non-Material Gifts: Give experiential gifts like vacations or services, like gift certificates for massages & movie tickets.

Give Handmade Gifts: Use reused and recycled materials whenever possible.

Shop & Buy Local: It helps to support your local economy.  Shopping local and buying locally made items also benefits the environment in that it uses fewer resources and creates less pollution.

Reduce Food Waste: Shop wisely and plan ahead; buying only what you need in order to minimize food waste.

Reuse Gift Bags & Wrapping: And, try not to overly package gifts.

Look for Recycled Materials: Buy cards, paper, and gifts made from recycled materials.

Holiday Waste Stats from the CDC

  • Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • About 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closets.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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