The holiday season is the largest source of packaging waste every year. In Canada alone we send over 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper into the trash. Although many of us will become ostracized by our families if we boycott the holidays altogether, we can individually do our part to deal with waste by learning methods to reduce consumption and properly handle trash.
When in doubt, opt out.
If you have a progressive family who understands that you want to live a low waste lifestyle and you are on your conscious consumerist journey. Tell them your wishes to reduce gifts this holiday season. Whether it be that you want absolutely nothing at all, would prefer the gift of an experience or a low waste item. Make it clear; most families will be more than accepting of your personal decisions.
It’s only single use if you use it once
When it comes to reducing waste the main things you should keep in mind are reduction and reuse. The more that we can repurpose items, the less we need to produce. Therefore, if you can salvage any form of packaging I highly recommend that you do. Just because it isn’t your garbage doesn’t mean you can’t make it your responsibility.
Here’s some handy tips on dealing with the different forms of holiday waste:
Wrapping paper is a massive culprit of holiday waste. Often produced from virgin materials this is exceptionally unsustainable right from the beginning of the supply-chain and it likely cannot be recycled, either.
Here’s what you need to know.
If it has any foil it is destined for the rubbish bin. If it does not have foil, but still has tape attached it is also unable to be recycled.
Don’t attack your present like a wild bear breaking into the garbage can. Instead, be meticulous so that you can reuse the paper next year. It’s also a great method to test your family’s patience while you unwrap it at a painstakingly slow speed.
Many people are unaware that tissue paper is unable to be recycled. But that doesn’t mean that you have to toss it out. Providing your tissue paper doesn’t have glitter you can throw it into your compost bin.
If your tissue paper has glitter or foil pieces, choose to reuse it as much as possible. Try and save each and every piece of tissue paper that you can. Truthfully the less you have to purchase in the future means the more money you save!
Pro tip: You can iron tissue paper on a low setting to remove any wrinkles.
I don’t know anyone who just throws out a gift bag that they’ve received. I’m pretty sure everyone has a stockpile of gift bags for every occasion on hand. However, if you haven’t previously saved them I highly recommend you do.
Again, if these have foil or plastic strings they cannot be recycled. If you want to recycle them please ensure that you’ve removed any mixed materials from the paper. That means tape, string and bows.
Ribbons and Bows
They make presents oh so pretty, but they are oh so wasteful. These likely cannot be recycled no matter how hard you try or where you live. Hold onto these items so you can reuse them for future holiday events.
Repurpose Christmas Cards
Every year 2.6 Billion Christmas cards are given out, yet another massive source of waste. Many cards which have glitter or foil cannot be added into the recycling stream. Get crafty with it and repurpose those cards by cutting off the front and making your own Christmas postcards or another DIY card.
There’s no shortage of boxes this time of year. Thankfully, cardboard is usually easily recyclable. Just make sure that you’ve removed all of the tape before adding to your recycling pile.
Don’t fall victim to wish-cycling
Although this is the time of year where wishes come true, it is important to remember that only 9% of the world’s plastic has been recycled. Make sure that you’re an expert on your local recycling and know which plastics are able to be reused.
Never recycle mixed materials
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a package has two types of plastic. But if you know that it is a mixed material which cannot be easily separated, it is best to toss into the garbage can.
Depending on where you live, this one might be tricky to deal with. Styrofoam is the antichrist of plastics. Make sure you know what is recyclable where you live.
Similar to the above, black plastics have a bad rep in the recycling world. Many municipalities will not accept this into their processing facilities and in some cases it can taint other perfectly recyclable items. It’s best to double check that your local pickup accepts black plastic.
How are you reducing waste this holiday season?