Ways to reduce waste this holiday season

KENTUCKY — The holidays can mean family time, good food and gift exchanges. But what some may not think about is the amount of waste that can accumulate during this time of year — wrapping paper, cardboard, gift cards, food containers and the list goes on. 

To help reduce waste and celebrate more sustainably, here are some tips. 

What Can Be Recycled

Of course, cities and municipalities may have different rules. Make sure to check your city’s site to ensure you are recycling properly. But for general guidelines:

  • Aluminum and steel cans, lids and canisters
  • No. 1 and No. 2 plastic bottles, jars and jugs (caps on)
  • Paper
  • Cartons (caps on)
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Cardboard
  • Paperboard

For those in Lexington with green trash carts, these items can be placed in there:

  • Wrapping and tissue paper
  • Padded envelopes
  • Sticker sheets
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Gift bags (reuse if possible)
  • Ribbons, bows and string
  • Molded plastic packaging
  • Bubble wrap and air pillows
  • Alkaline batteries (e.g. AAA, AA, C, D, etc.) These can also be taken to the city’s e-waste facility
  • Plastic bags, cellophane and film
  • Musical and photo greeting cards
  • Broken toys
  • Paper and plastic disposable plates
  • Plastic and Styrofoam cups

What Not to Recycle

  • Tissue paper
  • Holiday light strings, cords and other “tanglers”
    • If these go to modern recycling facilities, they usually get wrapped around equipment, causing a facility to shut down until workers get it removed. Some retailers, electronics recyclers and communities offer seasonal recycling programs for light strings. Put broken lights in the trash.
  • Plastic bags, plastic film and wrap
    • Same with lights, they can also get tangled in recycling equipment. Bagged recyclables can be problematic since workers don’t know what’s inside. You can take many types of clean, dry plastic bags and wrap to store drop-off locations.
  • Batteries and electronics

Other Sustainable Ways to Reduce Waste

  • Give reusable gifts
  • Reconsider cards — Try electronic greeting cards or a small handwritten note
  • Buy secondhand — Utilize thrift stores this season. They could be good places to find unique, affordable gifts.
  • Donate — Whether you’re donating to a local charity in someone’s honor or donating nonperishable food, you’re still saving items from ending up in landfills.
  • Find nonmaterialistic gifts — Think concert tickets and restaurant gift cards
  • Try not using wrapping paper — Alternatives can be brown paper, fabric, newspaper and more. 
  • Use recyclable containers for gifts — Aim for cardboard boxes
  • Don’t toss away your fake tree — You can donate it to a shelter or thrift store, or store in the basement for next year
  • Don’t toss your real tree away, either — There are local collection programs that turn them into wood chips. Some even use them for wildlife restoration.
  • Avoid plastic decorations 
  • Recycle the items that can be recycled


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