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Holiday Recycling Tips


Now that most of the holiday presents have probably been opened, you may be thinking about eco-friendly ways to get rid of the mess. There are plenty of great ways to recycle your holiday clutter, but it’s not always so simple as throwing it all in your recycling bin.

Jan Tracy, Pinellas County's Solid Waste Program Coordinator, offers some tips about how to make your holiday clean-up a little greener.

Save as much as you can: Whether that means gift bags you can hang on to for next year’s presents or an empty box you can use for storage, reducing waste is a great way to help the environment.

Wrapping paper can be recycled – sometimes: Plain wrapping paper is a great thing to recycle. But wrapping paper with glitter, metallic or velvet on it goes in the regular trash. And don’t worry if you’ve got leftover pieces of tape stuck to your gift wrap, it will still be okay to recycle.

Ribbons and bows on the other hand: Ribbons and bows, as well as packing material like bubble wrap are terrible to recycle because they can get caught in the recycling machines. Make sure these materials have been completely removed from your packages and gift wrap before you recycle them, or else throw it all in the trash.

Empty your cardboard: There’s always an uptick in cardboard boxes in the recycling bin this time of year, especially in the age of online shopping. These are great recycling items. Flatten the boxes or tear them into pieces to fit more in your bin, and make sure they are completely empty before you recycle them. Things like Styrofoam packing peanuts cannot be recycled. 

Holiday cards can be recycled too: Those holiday cards crowding your fridge and mantle are usually made out of paper and thus are great recycling items. But the same rules for gift wrap apply when it comes to glitter and metallic, so if your card has a glittery section, tear that off. Throw the plain part in recycling and the glittery half in the trash. Or if you’re feeling crafty you may even be able to turn it into a festive gift tag for next year.

Old electronics don’t have to go in the dumpster: Many people were gifted with new TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other electronics this holiday season. Before you take your old electronics to the dump or leave them on your sidewalk, find out if your community has a designated disposal area for them. Pinellas County’s Household Electronics and Chemicals Center is in St. Petersburg.

Don’t feel bad about the trash: Many counties in Florida, like Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, burn their garbage to create electricity. So even when you’re just throwing things away you’re still recycling in a way. 

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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