This holiday season will surely look a little different, but it’s likely people will still have more waste than usual to get rid of after holiday shopping and shipping, preparing food and opening presents.

Americans throw out 25 percent more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year, much of which will end up in a landfill. The Kent County Department of Public Works set an ambitious goal to divert 90 percent of the county’s trash that goes into landfills by 2030. The reduction of holiday waste will help reach that goal and help Kent County be more sustainable overall.

It’s important to know how to properly dispose of holiday waste materials and reduce your impact on the environment. Here are some tips and tricks from our team at DPW to help you reduce your impact.

Holiday Recycling Guide
  • Get creative with gift wrapping. Holiday wrapping paper isn’t the only option to make your gifts look festive and creative. Newspaper, fabric, a cute tote bag, a trendy mason jar and more are sustainable, recyclable or reusable options. Elements such as ribbon and tissue paper can be reused or replaced with twine or another natural material. Instead of bows or ribbon, consider including a natural decoration like leafy branches from evergreen trees or winter berries to adorn presents – your gifts will look enticing, impressive and thoughtful.

 

  • Shop local, especially this year. Small, local businesses have struggled to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the holidays are a perfect time to show you care. If you have an idea for a gift, check to see if a local business carries it before heading to a national retailer or website. This is a great year to give gifts that don’t require wrapping, like a gift card to a local restaurant for take-out or a donation to a local nonprofit on someone’s behalf.

 

  • Adopt a simple way to stop wasting leftovers. A total of $91 billion in food is wasted every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This includes about 200 million pounds of turkey thrown out during the week of Thanksgiving. There are simple ways to reduce your waste when it comes to leftovers, including repurposing ingredients to fit into other dishes such as soups or chili and freezing perishable items to savor later. Smaller gatherings this year mean there is a need to plan and buy less food. And because some might be alone on the holidays this year, it’s a good idea to check in and pack some home-cooked food to drop off for them to enjoy.

 

  • Donate old items or arrange a swap. Receiving presents may mean it’s time to get rid of some older items. Before throwing them away, research local charities that are taking donations of items. Another idea is to arrange a clothing or item swap with friends, which can be done digitally and by drop-off. This can help avoid contributing to landfills – 80 percent of discarded textiles globally end up in landfills.

 

  • Replace your holiday lights to increase efficiency. Holiday lights are a great way to get into the holiday spirit while remaining safe at home. You can also enjoy your neighborhoods’ lights from a distance. Consider purchasing new LED lights, which are more energy efficient and last longer. Holiday lights can’t be recycled in your curbside bin because they can get tangled in our equipment. Instead, you can recycle broken holiday string lights at an alternative drop-off.

 

  • Whether you’re a real-tree-person or a fake-tree-person, Christmas trees need to be disposed of in a certain way when the time comes. Artificial trees cannot be donated for reuse – they must be thrown away because they are non-biodegradable. Real trees, once they are undecorated and free of other materials (and not in a bag), can be recycled at multiple locations throughout Kent County. This also includes wreaths and garland.

 

  • When it comes to recycling, be on the “nice list.” Know what you can and can’t recycle in Kent County during the holidays. Our “nice list” includes glass bottles and jars, cardboard, cartons, metal cans and foil, hard plastic and paper cups. We highly encourage you to look at our recycling guide, which unlike your neighbor’s holiday lights, is good for all year round!

We wish everyone a happy, safe and sustainable holiday season.