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It's the Most Wonderful and Wasteful Time of the Year

PHOTO: These didn't fall off Santa's sleigh. Trash output for the average household increases by 25 percent during the end-of-year holidays. Photo credit: Spencer Ritenour
PHOTO: These didn't fall off Santa's sleigh. Trash output for the average household increases by 25 percent during the end-of-year holidays. Photo credit: Spencer Ritenour
December 11, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - As the classic song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year" - but it also could be called the most wasteful.

The holidays always bring overflowing trash bags and garbage cans, said Reo Menning, public affairs director for Metro Waste Authority of Des Moines.

"There's a 25-percent increase in what Americans throw away between Thanksgiving and New Year's," she said, "It's just that time of the year, where there are more celebrations, there's a lot of gift-giving, and it just creates trash."

As a nation, Americans generate about 250 million tons of trash every year, with only about one-third of that waste being recycled.

While the hope is to increase recycling rates, Menning noted that some holiday items one might assume could be recycled actually cannot. That includes metallic wrapping paper, along with decorations such as garlands or Christmas lights.

"Anything that's long and wrapped, it's just like a cord and it wraps around the recycling sorting equipment, so try not to throw those in," she said. "Aluminum foil and aluminum pans also cannot be recycled. The aluminum is too soft to go through the system to be recycled efficiently."

Ribbons and bows also are not recyclable, but Menning suggests keeping them nice and reusing those types of items.

This is also a time when households are filled with new electronics, from computers to phones and TVs, and that means getting rid of the old, which Menning says need to be disposed of properly - not in your trash.

"There are many places that can take them, and one of 'em is your local hazardous-waste drop-off center, if you have one in your community," she said. "You can get on our website, if you're in this area, and go to WhereItShouldGo.com - and we'll provide a lot of options for you."

More holiday recycling information is at mwatoday.com.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA