Americans increase waste by 25% during the holidays as more stay at home, shop online

Local News

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Americans produce 25% more garbage from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. That translates to over one million tons of extra trash per week through to the holidays.   

December is the unofficial trash season as the holidays mean more sent to recycling and to the landfill with one message from sanitation: Get it right.  

“We’ve even created a naughty and nice list this holiday season,” said Michael Garland, Environmental Service director for Monroe County. Garland says it is important to focus on not only what goes in curbside recycling, but what cannot go in that blue bin.  

“Christmas lights, Styrofoam plastic bags, plastic film, shipping envelopes, cooking oil,” said Garland. Masks also belong in the trash bin. One of the biggest items on the naughty list is the plastic bag. Any thin plastic can likely be recycled at the grocery store and can cause major problems in the recycling center by jamming up the systems.  

MORE |What goes in the bin, and what goes in the trash

Most harder plastics can be recycled and paper is high on the list of recyclable items. “There’s a lot more shopping online happening with a lot of folks at home. So, it’s generating a lot more cardboard, and we’d like that card board flattened,” said Garland. Most wrapping paper that is not metallic can be recycled, but again do not put it into the plastic bag. Try recycling it by putting it in a cardboard box and sending that to the street. 

RIT professor and head of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute Charles Ruffing says we need to pump the brakes on recycling and start focusing on reducing our use of items. “What we would like to do is to have people reduce first, so if we’re talking about the holidays, does something need to be wrapped? Examining the motivation,” said Ruffing. After reducing as much as possible, aiming to reuse items is also better than recycling. Reusing a gift bag would be a good example. 

Wish-cycling is the act of hoping that you can recycle everything and that will prevent from it being sent to a landfill or other waste facility. This can end up cause more damage down the line as trash not meant to be recycled can contaminate what would be high quality raw material. Lower purity levels of, for example, cardboard and metal, are worth less and can become less desirable to markets.  

It is important to remember that when in doubt, throw it out.  

Artificial Christmas trees can be recycled at the Monroe County Eco-Park in Chili that is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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