Planning ahead can cut back on holiday waste

Careless wrappings and trimmings contribute to tons of extra trash for county in the deep midwinter

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Not all holiday traditions are pleasant.

Starting the week of Thanksgiving through mid-January, Clark County residents generate more than 500 additional tons of garbage compared to other 10-week stretches of the year, said Josy Wright, waste reduction manager for Waste Connections.

But there are simple ways to cut down on how much ends up in landfills.

Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for the city of Vancouver's public works department, said last year's post-holiday block foam/electronics collection at the Fisher's Landing Transit Center netted 2,305 pounds of electronic waste for recycling.

About 1,000 pounds of block foam was dropped off at the Fisher's Landing event, while another 2,424 pounds of block foam was taken to Empower Up, a nonprofit organization.

Callahan can't say conclusively all of that foam came from the holidays, as some people may collect it through the year and do one drop-off, but said it's a popular time to purchase big items that frequently are packaged with block foam.

The next electronics and block foam collection event will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 4 at the Fisher's Landing Transit Center, 3510 S.E. 164th Ave.

Other types of packaging, such as bubble wrap and plastic clamshells, cannot be recycled.

Another way to reduce what holiday trash goes in trash cans? Carefully consider how gifts are wrapped, and sort through the pile left behind after presents have been opened.

Cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, mailing tubes and paper bags can be flattened and placed in a blue recycling cart, Callahan said.

However, ribbons, bows, yarn, foil wrapping and plastic bags cannot be recycled, so set them aside to be reused.

Callahan suggests putting presents in reusable gift bags made of heavy paper or fabric, wrapping gifts in newspaper or making the wrapping part of the gift, such as towels or a tablecloth.

As for environment-friendly gifts, shoppers will want to check out the fourth annual "Check 'Em Off Green Holiday Gift Event," 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Marshall Community Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., where they will find gifts made from recycled materials from local artisans and vendors.