GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is a 25 percent increase in waste production during the holiday season, which makes recycling even more important.
Below, take our quiz to learn whether and how to recycle common holiday items.
For all the extra cardboard boxes, Katelyn Kikstra, the waste reduction educator with the Kent County Department of Public Works, said it’s not necessary to remove any tape or staples as long as they are flattened. However, other items may take extra attention, like paper products.
“We just want the paper-only cards that do not have a ton of glitter. Glitter is actually tiny microplastics and foil. That is what makes them shiny and sparkly. When we send that to our paper mills, they do have some technology to remove some of that contamination, but because glitter is so small, it can really wreak havoc on trying to turn that old paper into new paper products,” Kikstra explained.
Plastic products can also go in curbside recycling, depending on how sturdy they are. Firm plastics — like solo cups and take-out containers — are curbside-friendly. Other items — like the pillows that cushion packages during shipping — need to go to specialty recyclers.
“Stores like Meijer or Lowe’s or Target will take plastic bags. You can take a lot of this flexible plastic to those locations. That is a private recycling program run by the American Chemistry Council. They partner with local retailers to collect this flat, flexible plastic and sell it to composite lumber companies.”
Christmas lights can create big problems at the recycling center as they often get tangled in the equipment. According to the county’s Holiday Recycling Guide, those must go to an electronics recycler.According to Kikstra, the most important gift anyone can give the environment for the holidays is the gift of time.
“Just take just a little bit of extra time to sort everything out. It’s the most impactful thing that you can do. With waste escalating by 25 percent in volume during the holidays, that is 25 percent more stuff that could go to the landfill. Or, if you just take a little bit of time and sort it out correctly, it could go to the recycling center instead.”