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Environment and Energy

Recycling do's and don'ts during the holiday season

Flickr member Colin Delaney

The gift-giving, party-throwing and house-decorating associated with the Christmas holiday season generates a lot of trash and recyclable materials each year. But, what exactly goes into the blue bins and what is for certain headed to the landfill?

Tom Martin has been with San Luis Garbage for more than 20 years. He says the rules surrounding recycling have changed over time, including what to do with all of that wrapping paper.

"In the old days when you had gift wrap, you could just throw it in the fireplace or in a blue bin," said Martin. "But, because of all the fire concerns, they've started to put chemical retardant in all of the gift wrap, and because of that it renders it non-recyclable, so all gift wrap is destined for the garbage can, unfortunately."

Styrofoam is another item that is no longer recyclable. It was for a short time, but now it costs the collection agencies too much to handle, so it too is destined for the landfill.

On the flip side, Martin says paper is far more recyclable than people think, including printed cardboard and old pizza boxes. Plastic is extremely recyclable too. Plastic bags should be bunched together to help keep them from getting jammed up in the processing equipment at the plant, but they too can go directly into the blue bins. All plastic—everything—is recyclable except the previously mentioned Styrofoam.

Old electronics should be taken to collection centers at your local landfill, where nearly all the parts are dismantled and recycled. Batteries, both rechargeable and standard versions, can be collected and dropped off at any store in town that sells batteries.

Garbage/recycling services by county: