The holiday season is here, which means it’s time for family gatherings, holiday parties and gift giving. While it’s a time for celebration and relaxation, it’s also an important time for reflection about the things we care for, including the environment.

It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day waste increases by about 25 percent in the United States – that’s about 1 million tons a week of waste that’s likely headed to a landfill. Between regular trash and the increase of waste that comes from the holidays, such as food scraps, wrapping paper and Christmas trees, it’s important to know how to properly dispose of materials and reduce your environmental impact.

To help you plan ahead, our team at the Kent County Department of Public Works has rounded up some helpful tips for reducing your waste this holiday season.

  1. Use reusable shopping bags
    As you’re out and about searching for the perfect holiday gift or grocery shopping for a big feast, remember to bring reusable bags with you. If you do use plastic bags, be sure to return your unused bags to drop offs at shopping locations in your area or recycle them in your curbside bin by placing them all in one bag so they don’t blow around and add unwanted decoration to your neighbor’s tree.
  2. Get creative with gift wrapping
    Believe it or not, wrapping paper and tissue paper cannot be recycled because it’s low-quality paper that the paper mills can’t use. Reduce your wrapping paper this holiday season by using other creative materials to wrap gifts, such as old maps, colorful cloth or old gift bags. Or try making the wrapping part of the gift by using a pretty scarf or a new dish towel.
  3. Separate your packaging
    The gift giving season brings extra packaging. From plastic to cardboard to strings and zip ties, it’s important to separate packaging materials before recycling them. For example, if a toy comes in a plastic package that also has cardboard, make sure to separate both materials before recycling.
  4. Don’t throw away electronics
    The holidays are a popular time of year for upgrading electronics such as TVs, appliances and new gadgets. Before you throw away your old coffee pot or gaming system, visit our recycling guide to learn how to properly dispose of these devices.
  5. Rinse and recycle glass bottles
    After you pop the champagne or make a toast with a glass of wine, remember to rinse out glass bottles and place them in your recycling bin.
  6. Properly dispose of Christmas trees
    When the holidays are over, it’s time to take down the Christmas tree. If you put up a real tree, remove all ornaments, tinsel and other decorations before taking it to your local drop off site. On the other hand, if you’re disposing your artificial tree, it’s not recyclable so donate it to a local thrift store. Even better, buy a living evergreen from your local gardening store and plant it once the holiday season is over.

These are just a few easy ways you can help reduce holiday waste this year. Download our Waste Guide *HOLIDAY EDITION* for a full list of tips and tricks for reducing waste and properly recycling this holiday season.