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Plan, reuse and recycle for a greener holiday

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Americans generate about 25 million extra tons of waste during the holiday season.
  • Americans generate about 25 million extra tons of waste during the holiday season.

By Mary Kuhlman


The most wonderful time of the year is also the most wasteful.

Household trash increases by an estimated 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, according to the Indiana Recycling Coalition.

Carey Hamilton, the coalition's executive director, encourages Hoosiers to consider reusing and recycling - not only during the holidays, but also year round.

"Recycling is one of the easiest ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint and also conserve energy in our economy," she points out. "So, taking the time this time of year, when we're particularly inclined to be wasteful, to reduce that impact, can have a really positive environmental impact."

A major contributor to holiday waste is gift wrapping, and Hamilton recommends reusing gift bags from last year, newspaper, magazines or coloring book pages. For smaller gifts, she says cloth napkins work well.

When it comes to entertaining, Hamilton advises folks to avoid using disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

And with an estimated 28 billion pounds of still-edible food tossed in the trash during the holidays, she encourages party planners to think ahead.

"We're planning for large groups and we buy much more than we need, and that creates a huge amount of food waste," she explains. "So, putting a little more thought into what you actually need, as far as different food items. "

With smart phones and tablets as popular gifts, it's often out with the old and in with the new.

After the holidays, Hamilton says it's incredibly important to recycle electronics, because they contain toxic materials. But she cautions it's a little more difficult to recycle electronics than it has been in the past.

"There are fewer outlets for that material, because the end markets for the basic commodities of electronics have become fewer and farther between," she states. "Keep in mind you may have to pay a small fee to recycle your large, older television, but please consider doing so. It's important to manage that material properly. "

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate about 25 million extra tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

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