Watch your waste this holiday season

Holiday WasteOops. In 2016, Oregonians generated slightly more waste and recycled slightly less than in years past, according to the department of Environmental Quality. We created 1,497 pounds of waste per person—and we recovered slightly less than half of that for recycling, energy or compost.

It’s less waste and more recycling than ten years ago. But today, we also face changes to the recycling market that mean we’ll have to be smarter about reducing and re-using as well as recycling.

Holiday season is a great time to make a real difference, because it’s the time of year we tend to generate most waste. About half of the paper we consume each year goes to wrapping and decorating consumer products—and about 60% of us are exchanging gifts this winter, according to the National Retailers Federation.

By sticking to a tight budget for trash, we can begin to turn the trash trend around in Oregon. One key point is to remember that “Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle” is meant to be practiced in that order. If you can avoid creating waste in the first place, great. If you can re-use something instead of throwing it in the bin, that’s second-best. And if you simply can’t avoid waste, recycling is preferable to throwing something in the trash.

Holiday Packaging Tips: Half of all the paper America consumes goes to wrapping and decorating consumer products. Here are a few tips to cut down on waste from packaging.

Reduce packaging that will turn immediately into waste!
Reduce: Use durable wrapping such as holiday-themed fabric or dishcloths.
Re-Use: Save paper, bags and ribbons to use again in the future. Choose items that can withstand multiple uses. Repurposed calendars, magazines and news print also make good wrapping paper.
Recycle: Choose paper than can be recycled. Avoid foil, glitter and plastic. Less-saturated tissue paper is better. Bows and ribbons cannot be recycled.

OTHER RECYCLING TIPS:
Crunchy plastic can’t be recycled in Oregon at this time (December 2018). Stay tuned next year to see if there are changes to the market.

Packing peanuts and bubble wrap: Ask your local mailing store if they will take your clean, dry leftover packing peanuts and bubble wrap. In Portland, “Postal Annex SW” will take both items until their collection box is full.

Styrofoam: There is one place near Portland that will take your styrofoam — anything marked with the #6 except packing peanuts. Agilyx in Tigard has a 24/7 drop box for consumers to drop off their materials.

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