Now that the holiday season has arrived, so has the waste generated by the festivities, from wrapping paper and plastic bows to dirty foil trays and more plastic packaging.
During this time of the year, Recology Humboldt’s Material Recovery Facility starts to collect about 25 percent more waste, says General Manager Linda Wise.
“Right now we’re seeing a lot of dirty foil and tin pans and Amazon plastic packaging as people are doing a lot of online shopping,” she says.
The waste-collection company especially sees a lot of wishful recycling — a term that describes people putting items in the recycling bins thinking that they're recyclable when they actually aren’t — especially with plastic film and bubble wrap, which impacts the entire recycling stream.
The more garbage recycling-collection companies process, the higher the costs will be for everyone in the recycling industry, which includes consumers paying for recycling, as workers now have to separate, bale and ship the garbage to landfills. MRFs do not clean our recyclables, so make sure that your rinse out any tin foil pans or they’ll contaminate other recyclables.
Non-recyclable holiday items that shouldn’t be placed in your recycling bin include wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon and bows, and gift bags. All the holiday waste on top of the regular recycling produces a slower production line and forces workers to sort out more material.
According to Wise, contamination in the waste stream slows the line to about 12 tons per hour, which is a big difference from the line's normal run of 17 to 20 tons per hour.
“It’s amazing how much waste comes this time of the year,” Wise says. “We see a lot of it, that’s why we don’t take vacations. There’s a big waste generation.”
So be sure to place non recyclable items in the trash bin, because if they wind up at Recology’s MRF, they'll make things really complicated. Better yet, try different sustainable materials to wrap your gifts in.
Wise suggests gift givers opt for reusable produce bags as gift bags and newspaper comic strips for wrapping paper (with twine to add a little flare). She also suggests reducing the waste stream by reusing old Christmas cards or brown paper sacks as gift tags, and keeping ribbon to reuse over and over again. But the most important thing Wise emphasized is shopping local to support local businesses and avoid the online packaging that comes with online purchases.
“Buy a Christmas card from a local artist,” she suggested. “Instead of shopping online, shop locally, or instead, buy gift certificates for services like a massage or a pedicure.”
For more information on local recycling check out our past coverage here.