The holidays can get busy, and for some of us, recycling or reducing may not be top of mind.
But it’s not just properly getting rid of gift wrap or extra ribbons. The season also produces a ton of single-use items like plastic cups, cutlery, napkins, plates and even food, the City of Toronto noted in a statement in November.
Vince Sferrazza, director of policy, planning and support for The City of Toronto, Solid Waste Management Services, told Global News that Toronto typically sees an increase in waste during the holiday season.
“Last year, we saw an increase in recycling tonnages,” he said. “Throughout the year we have issues with contamination in the recycling stream. Common contaminants include food waste, clothing and other textiles, black plastics, and un-emptied/un-rinsed food containers.”
He added the city runs an education campaign during the holidays to remind people what to do with holiday-produced waste.
“We’re asking residents to be aware of how much waste they produce over the holidays and to practice the three R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle),” he continued.
Save gift wrap, bows and ribbons — you really don’t need to buy something new every year.
Here are some everyday ways to cut back on waste this holiday season. And pass these tips on — it is the season of giving, after all. It’s important to remember to check out your local waste and recycling program to see if they have additional rules.
Skip boxed gifts
Sferrazza suggested skipping boxed gifts altogether and focusing on more experience-based gifts, like classes or a getaway.
Save your paper
“Reusing old boxes, gift wrap, ribbons and bows,” Sferrazza said. You can always find creative ways to wrap gifts including eco-friendly wrapper paper or even newspaper. According to the City of Burnaby, additional ways to cut back on gift wrapping waste is avoiding any wrapping paper with metallic or plastic pieces.
Bring usable bags
Holidays require more shopping than usual, so when you are out, don’t forget to bring reusable shopping bags — even to the mall.
“Avoiding disposable dishes, napkins and cups when hosting holiday parties can make an impact,” he added.
Put waste in its proper place
“Residents should also remember to empty and clean food containers and trays before putting these items in the [recycling bin],” Sferrazza added. This is crucial to help reduce contamination in the recycling stream.
Flatten cardboard boxes, put food scraps in separate bins and make sure you throw any bubble wrap, foil or metallic paper or packing peanuts in the garbage.
Have a plan for your tree
Depending on where you live, your city could have a tree drop-off centre or have curbside pickup on specific dates. Make sure you remove all ornaments, lights and the stand. In Burnaby, for example, trees over five feet must be cut in half, and trees are not allowed in the green bin.
Don’t make assumptions
If you are unsure what to recycle and what to throw out, double check with the city first online. This is the easiest thing you can do to reduce waste.
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