Don’t Throw Santa in the Landfill – Local Recycling Programs to Handle Holiday Waste

A December 16 Sustainable Cities Network article explored some of the seasonal recycling and waste reduction programs local governments use to manage solid waste during the holiday season. The article noted that in the United States household waste increases about 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The article highlighted different programs for holiday lights, food, and trees.


The article discussed holiday light recycling programs run by Evanston, Illinois, and the state of Minnesota:

Evanston’s annual holiday light recycling program is done in conjunction with the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County and is supported by Elgin Recycling….Through the holiday light recycling program, Elgin Recycling recovers and recycles the copper wire inside the holiday lights. Participating cities receive a rebate check for the copper.

In February 2015 Elgin Recycling picked up 576 pounds of holiday lights at the Evanston Public Library and then paid the city .08 cents per pound, for a total of $46.08 for the copper recovered. In February 2014, Elgin Recycling picked up 422 pounds of holiday lights at that same location and paid .15 cents per pound for a total of $63.30. …

“More people are making the switch to LED lights or they have lights that aren’t working anymore,” [Evanston Sustainability Manager Catherine Hurley] said, and this program is an “every little bit counts,” type of recycling program. …

In Minnesota, there’s a statewide holiday light recycling program managed by the Recycling Association of Minnesota. Residents can drop off their unwanted light strings at more than 450 locations between now and the end of January.

Through the program, Recycle Your Holidays, the strands are dismantled by vocational center clients and properly recycled locally. More than 200 individuals with disabilities are employed through this unique program.


The article highlighted the efforts of Seattle, Washington to reduce holiday food waste:

During the holidays, Seattle city officials are encouraging comprehensive meal planning to reduce holiday food waste. …

“We are all making too much food. We can cook smarter and plan ahead,” said Solid Waste Outreach Coordinator Angela Wallis. “We recommend figuring out what can be frozen for when you want to eat it and what can be reconstituted into something new. Like taking leftover turkey and making it into turkey soup.” …

“We encourage people to buy local and fresh and plan so that it doesn’t get lost in the fridge,” Wallis said. “And put whatever can’t be used in your food and yard waste cart for composting.”


The article discussed tree recycling options provided by Seattle, Washington, and New York City:

In Seattle, residents who subscribe to curbside food and yard waste collection can put their trees and greens out on their regular collection day at no extra charge from Dec. 26 through Jan. 10. …

Residents also have the option of dropping off their holiday trees and greens for free at Seattle Public Utilities’ South Recycling and Disposal station. The limit is three trees per vehicle and trees and wreaths are composted free of charge.

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the New York City Department of Sanitation, and GreeNYC call their annual holiday tree recycling program MulchFest.

This year’s MulchFest will take place on Jan. 9-10. The city encourages residents to either drop off their tree at a designated location starting Jan. 2 or they can bring it to MulchFest where they have the option of taking home their own bag of mulch to use in their backyard.

The article also noted that the National Christmas Tree Association’s website lists tree recycling programs throughout the country and offers tips on how to start a program.