‘Tis the season for food, family and tons of trash.
Americans throw away 25% more garbage than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to the nonprofit National Environmental Education Foundation.
That includes at least 25 million live Christmas trees, $11 billion worth of packing materials and 38,000 miles of ribbon — enough to wrap around the entire planet.
Knowing what to do with all that waste became more difficult in 2018 when China stopped taking most recycling from the United States. Marion County drastically reduced the range of items it accepts for recycling, and local haulers began fining residents for doing it wrong.
“Knowing where and how to properly dispose of items that come with the holidays can help in reducing the amount of materials that needlessly end up in the trash, while also assuring that our recovery and recycling processes can run smoothly,” said Yancy Gordon, Marion County Public Works spokeswoman.
Guide to keeping some of your holiday trimmings out of the trash
Real trees and wreaths
Remove all ribbons, lights and ornaments, and cut trees up to fit in your yard cart.
There also are some local groups, including the Boy Scouts, that let you drop off or even will pick up your tree for a small donation.
Flocked trees and wreaths
Flocked trees can’t be recycled. Put them in the trash.
Artificial trees and wreaths
Artificial trees and wreaths can’t be recycled, but they may be accepted at some resale stores.
Gift wrap and holiday cards
Put gift wrap and holiday cards in the blue mixed-waste recycling bin, with the exception of wrapping paper that is shiny or slick, ribbons, bows or anything with glitter.
Holiday cards that are shiny, have glitter or use photo paper also cannot be recycled.
Leftover food and food waste
Residents in Salem city limits can put some food waste in their yard waste cart.
This includes common holiday fare such as fruit and vegetable scraps, meats and proteins (including bones), and non-liquid dairy products.
Small amounts of used oil, fats and grease can be disposed of in a container with a lid by placing it in the trash. For larger quantities of oil, residents who have the small red recycling bins can place up to two gallons of used oil in the bin as long as it is in a clear plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Don’t dump it down kitchen drains and garbage disposals or outdoors near storm drains.
Cardboard boxes can go in the mixed recycling bin.
Styrofoam blocks can be recycled for free at Fresh Start Market, 3020 Center St. NE. The market does not accept meat trays, egg cartons or take-out containers.
Packing peanuts can be taken to some mailing stores, such as UPS and FedEx. Call first to check whether they are accepting them.
If you’re upgrading to LED lights, you can recycle your incandescent lights at holidayLEDS.com, and get a coupon toward a purchase.
Place batteries in a zip-sealed bag in the small red recycling bin. If you live outside city limits, there are nearly 30 locations where batteries can be dropped off for free.
Check the county’s recycle guide, at www.co.marion.or.us/PW/ES/disposal/programs/recycling, for more information.
If you got a new TV, computer or microwave, be sure to recycle the old one. The Oregon E-Cycles law makes it illegal to throw away many electronics. If the items can’t be donated, they can be recycled for free at either the Salem-Keizer or North Marion recycling and transfer stations. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality keeps a list of more places to recycle electronics for free at https://www.oregon.gov/deq/ecycles/Pages/default.aspx.