Post-holiday recycling questions answered — Waterbury Roundabout

And just like that, the 2022 holidays are memories. 

Besides scrolling and sharing photos with friends and family, there’s likely some cleanup ahead. 

For those with a live Christmas tree to dispose of, know that plans are coming together for a bonfire at Anderson Park to burn Christmas trees. Save the date for Jan. 14, according to Recreation Program Coordinator Wyatt O’Brien. In the meantime, people can drop off trees near the tennis courts. Add them to the pile and please be sure all decorations (lights, tinsel, etc.) and tree bags used for transport are removed.

Boy Scouts from Troop 701 are planning to assist with collecting trees.They will be picking up on Saturday morning, Jan. 7, for a suggested donation of $5 with funds going to the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund. To request a pickup, use this online form. They ask that requests be made by 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5, for planning purposes. 

Pickups will be limited given a small crew for the project. Email any questions to

The popular bonfire event usually involves skating at the Anderson Park outdoor ice rink. O’Brien said he and Water Department staff are eyeing the weather forecast hoping conditions will soon allow them to create the ice. 

A less-fiery alternative for spent evergreen trees is to pass them on to a neighbor with goats who find them quite appetizing. Waterbury resident and goat owner Sarah Callahan made that suggestion on Front Porch Forum last week: “If you’re looking for a way to dispose of your fresh tree, please feel free to drop it here for our goats to munch on.” If you don’t know Callahan, email her at for her address.  

So what about other remnants of the season like strings of dead lights, wrapping paper, etc.? We checked in with John Malter, administrator of the Mad River Resource Management Alliance, our local expert on all things related to recycling, reusing, reducing, and ultimately disposing of waste. 

Here are some tips delivered with Malter’s trademark wry sense of humor. 

Q: We’re packing up holiday decorations and there’s a pile of string lights that are kaput. Should they go in the trash or can they be recycled? 

A: Those Chinese Christmas lights are their gift to the U.S. marketplace for sending all of our unrecyclable recyclables to them just a few short years ago. They are either trash or can be put in the metal container since there is wire in the strings of light. 

But why is it necessary to add these colors to Mother Nature’s already beautiful trees? Yes, I would use a potted tree that can be used over and over and will be a tradition that carries down in the family, perhaps with handmade decorations.

Q: Santa replaced that old cracked, broken pair of downhill ski boots. Where do they go to die? 

A: Ski boots shouldn’t have to die whether they are cross-country, downhill, or even just plain boots to navigate over the terrain. Boots can get recycled through our recently established textile bins. Here in Waterbury, Rodney’s Rubbish Transfer Station and Redemption Center will accept them at no charge as long as they are clean, don’t smell and aren’t wet. They will be taken apart and repaired or parts will be recycled for other products.

Q: We bagged up wrapping paper and ribbon thinking it was fair game for recycling. Are we right? 

A: Wrapping paper is a Hallmark moment that has been foisted upon our consumer psych that doesn’t need to continue. Use natural fiber like the paper bags that you might find hanging around or the Sunday papers if somehow you still get your news in print. No wrapping paper/metallic or other can now be recycled through the material recycling center (MRF). Just use the box that your present came in and then recycle that cardboard. Just say no to excess packaging. We all can make a difference in reducing the amount of waste being generated at this time. 

Q: Putting away some new things and needing to get rid of the old. What to do with broken electric appliances like toaster ovens, hairdryers, coffee makers? How about old scratched and dented pots and pans? 

A: Broken appliances are trash although in a non-COVID world there are periodically workshops for repairing these devices. The ones that are out of date but still working could be offered for a small price or free to the public via the WDEV Trading Post or Front Porch Forum or at next summer’s garage sale. Yes, summer is coming, I promise. Pots and pans would fall into the same category but if they are rusted or beyond reasonable reuse, they can get recycled through the metal recycling container.

Q: How about electronics like computer keyboards, monitors, laptops? 

A: The computers, printers, monitors, TVs and related parts and pieces (cables, mice, etc.) are part of Vermont’s E Waste Product Stewardship Program and they can go to the State Surplus Property Building on U.S. Route 2 about a mile west of downtown Waterbury in the same driveway as SunCommon. No charge for dropping off these materials. Other small electronic materials are accepted for a fee calculated by weight.

Q: It’s time to clean out closets – what to do with old sheets, towels that are ready for the rag pile? What to do with clothing/footwear no longer “gently used” and appropriate to be donated and reused – Is there an alternative to the trash? 

A: Footwear in  pairs, clothing, linens, accessories, pet clothes (yes, that’s a thing), in any condition as long as they are clean, dry and odorless can go to the textile recycling bin at Rodney’s Rubbish Transfer Station that is operated by Helpsy out of White Plains, New York. Also, the Bargain Boutique in downtown Waterbury continues to be the go-to location to reuse your textiles that are in good condition and clean.

Q: We’ve been collecting halogen light bulbs – not the ones with mercury – thinking they shouldn’t go in the trash. What’s the proper way to dispose of light bulbs and batteries, too, for that matter? 

A: Incandescent lights and halogen lamps are not hazardous waste and should go in the trash. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes contain small amounts of mercury and can be taken to Aubuchon’s Hardware and Waterbury True Value Hardware at no charge. Sales of CFLs are being phased out but recycling continues. 

Also, people can take up to 5 gallons of architectural oil or latex paint in good containers to Aubuchon and True Value. And you can also bring primary batteries – AA ,AAA, C, D and 9 volt, as well as small rechargeable batteries – less than 2.2 pounds, to Waterbury True Value.

Q: Driving around, I see spots along roadsides where people have left tires, old appliances and even furniture. Who is going to reuse a sofa that’s been out in the rain and snow for two months? What should people do to get rid of these hard-to-dispose-of items? 

A: Keep a note of where you find spots where stuff has been dumped over the past year that shouldn’t be there. On the first Saturday in May (May 6, 2023) we are planning the continued performance of Green Up Day. Hopefully our volunteers will help to beautify the state. You can do your part by not dumping your unwanted household items along the roadside or brooksides or any other places that they don’t belong. If there is still life in old furniture, offer it to your neighbors via Front Porch Forum, the WDEV Trading Post, or other community messaging alternatives. Don’t forget those garage sales. 

On Green Up Day, we will have tire collections for a fee and we will accept Green Up collected tires at no charge to the volunteers. Rodney’s Rubbish Transfer Station and Redemption Center will accept larger furniture and appliances for a fee.

Q: What else would you like people to know?

A: We are planning to hold two Household Hazardous Waste Collections at Harwood Union High School in 2023: on Saturday, May 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14. We will share details on those closer to the events. 

If people are interested in disposing of non-meat food scraps at home, the Mad River Resource Management Alliance has Soil Saver compost bins available for $52. They can contact me to arrange pickup. We will also hold composting workshops in the springtime in Waterbury and Waitsfield. 

More information about recycling many materials is online on the Mad River Resource Management Alliance website. Contact Malter at


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