The holiday season is a time of giving and sharing with family and friends. While enjoying these traditions, you can also take steps to “green” your holidays. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of garbage produced in the United States increases by about one million tons each week. Annually, Americans discard an estimated 38,000 miles of ribbon, 11 billion dollars worth of packing material and 15 million used Christmas trees. Fortunately, many opportunities are available for residents of Oneida and Herkimer Counties to keep holiday celebrations environmentally friendly.
“Throughout each year, the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority (Authority) offers various waste reduction and recycling programs to its residents. Due to increased waste during the holiday season, the Authority offers reminders for proper disposal and recycling of holiday items so that residents can cut down on waste with ease, said Jamie Tuttle, Authority Recycling Educator.
“This year marks the 30th year that holiday gift wrap will be accepted for recycling in Oneida and Herkimer Counties. To recycle holiday gift wrap, fold or flatten the gift wrap and place it loosely in your recycling container. Gift wrap cannot be placed in plastic bags for recycling. Tissue paper and foil or metallic wrapping paper are not accepted for recycling. Wrapping paper will only be accepted during the two weeks following Christmas,” said Tuttle. “Cardboard tubes from gift wrap may also be placed in your recycling container. Always consider reusing wrapping paper before disposal.”
Holiday greeting cards may also be recycled. Each year, 2.65 billion holiday cards are sold in the U.S. That is enough to fill a football field ten stories high. Place greeting cards, catalogs, gift boxes and other recyclable paper in with your regular recyclables. These items can be recycled all year long. Styrofoam and packing peanuts are not recyclable and should be placed with your regular garbage.
Holiday lights should be stored for use again next year. Broken or unwanted holiday lights cannot be placed in your recycling bin. The CNY Veterans Outreach Center is accepting donations of old holiday lights this holiday season. The lights will be recycled and proceeds will go towards services for Veterans and their families. The CNY Veterans Outreach Center is located at 726 Washington Street in Utica and is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM – 3:30 PM for drop offs. To schedule a large pickup of lights, call CNY Veteran’s Outreach at 315-765-0975. You may also deliver holiday lights to the Authority’s Utica or Rome EcoDrops for proper recycling at no charge or dispose of them with your regular trash. Other types of electronic waste such as computers and televisions are also accepted at the Authority’s Utica and Rome EcoDrops year-round, at no charge.
The Authority’s compost facility allows this region increased recycling opportunities, including Christmas tree recycling. Contact your local municipality to see what the collection schedule is for Christmas trees. If your municipality does not have a collection schedule, residents can deliver trees for composting to the Authority’s Utica EcoDrop. “Make sure all decorations and tinsel are removed. Christmas wreaths should be disposed of with your regular garbage. Real and artificial wreaths are held together with wire and plastic, so they cannot be composted. By using reusable decorations and avoiding items such as tinsel, which is hard to remove and reuse again, you can reduce waste,” said Tuttle. “Consider donating unwanted decorations to local charities.”
New to the 2020 Holiday season is the opportunity for residents to participate in the Authority’s Food2Energy program. The Authority’s Food2Energy program allows for the recovery of food scraps to divert them from the Regional Landfill and utilize them for energy.
The voluntary Food2Energy drop-off program allows residents to deliver inedible food scraps to the Authority’s Utica EcoDrop. Food scraps must be delivered in a clear plastic bag and there is no requirement to remove packaging as the Authority is able to separate the packaging from food scraps. Food2Energy costs $2 per 35-gallon clear bag. (Cooking oil is NOT accepted through the Food2Energy program and must be delivered separately.) To view the full list of acceptable material or for more information on Food2Energy, visit www.ohswa.org.
Residents in Oneida and Herkimer Counties also have the capability to recycle leftover cooking oil and kitchen grease. Residents can deliver cooking oil and kitchen grease to the Utica EcoDrop year-round, at no charge. Residents should transport used oils or grease in sealed, unbreakable, leak-proof containers. The material is then collected and recycled into animal feed.
“In order to close the recycling loop, we need to buy recycled products,” stated Tuttle. “While shopping for gifts, purchase items made from recycled-content. Many polar fleece and other clothing items are made from recycled plastic soda and water bottles. Purchase wrapping paper, gift boxes, gift bags, and holiday cards made from recycled paper. With a little pre-cycling, waste reduction and proper recycling of the materials we generate, we can all make our holidays a little greener,” Tuttle concluded.
If you are not sure how to properly recycle or dispose of an item, the Authority encourages residents to visit its easy-to-use tool at www.AmIRecyclable.com to search hundreds of different items and learn all the answers. When non-acceptable items are placed in the recycling bin, they interfere with the recycling of acceptable items.
For more information on recycling and waste disposal, please contact Authority Recycling Educator Jamie Tuttle at (315) 733-1224 ext. 2300 or visit www.ohswa.org. You may also ask questions and find more information on the Authority’s Facebook page (Oneida Herkimer Solid Waste Authority).