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You're doing it wrong! Post-Holiday clean up, made easy

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Thursday, December 14, 2017, 12:31 PM - What’s colourful, shiny, and weighs hundreds of thousands of tonnes? Our Christmas gift wrapping waste across Canada! Yes, it may be the most wonderful time of the year but it’s also definitely the most wasteful. 

Stats report more than 545,000 tonnes of waste is generated in Canada from gift wrapping, gift bags, and shopping bags annually! While you may think that recycling has it all wrapped up, sadly lots of Christmas paper ends up in landfills.

“It’s a common misconception that wrapping paper is recyclable,” says expert Teresa Looy, of greenactioncentre.ca. “While some may be accepted in your area’s recycling system, much of it is not.”

We are a nation of wasters. The average Canadian family sends 25-45% more waste to the landfill over the holiday season. Zero Waste Canada reports that every person will throw away an average of 110 lbs. of garbage this holiday season. 

“A lot of the waste is gift wrap and wrapping supplies. So if you wrap your presents in reusable or recycled and recyclable materials, you can make a big dent in that extra waste,” Looy adds.

So just what do you toss and what do you recycle? While it’s key to check with your municipality or region for the best advice on what goes where, Looy offers up these general rules of thumb to diminish your festive footprint:

• Glittery and foil gift wrap can’t be recycled and, in many places including Winnipeg, Peterborough, Kingston and Thunder Bay, traditional Christmas wrapping paper isn’t recycled – that’s due to its high ink, low fibre content, and it often contains plastic, glitter, and/or foil. Check your local recycling policy to see if ‘used’ paper is accepted in your city’s recycling program.
• What about all those gift bags? The plastic coated ones and those made entirely with plastic generally need to go in the trash. Gift bags made out of paper can be recycled in communities that allow it, but again check with your municipality. A better option than tossing any bag is to keep re-using it – it’ll still be good next year!
• A quick test to see if it’s 100% paper: “Try ripping it: If it is hard to rip, it is likely plastic or coated with metal and should go in the garbage,” Looy says. Better yet, try re-using it next Christmas.
• Got lots of boxes from online deliveries? Consider hanging on to them for storing your Christmas decorations or for wrapping presents. Almost every recycling system in the country will take cardboard and boxboard.
• Gift cards are occasionally accepted for recycling, but only if they are either 100% paper or your system takes plastic cards such as cut up credit cards.
• Batteries are considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and should be collected through your province’s or municipality’s HHW program. Keep them out of the landfill! A great alternative to single-use batteries is the rechargeable ones, says Looy, adding that they make great “green” gifts too.
• Tinsel, bows, garland and ribbon are made of mixes of materials that are detrimental to the recycling process. Instead of tossing them, reuse them next Christmas.
• Styrofoam and bubble wrap are not accepted for recycling in most jurisdictions. Either toss them in the garbage (and look for an alternative for next time) or check what your jurisdiction’s options are.
• Many areas in the country have Christmas tree take-back programs throughout the end of December and January. Typically they are mulched and used in landscaping or for compost facilities. Some jurisdictions will pick up your tree right from your curbside or back lane, and others require you to take it to a depot.
• Artificial Christmas trees can be perfectly good environmental choices but only if you use them for about two decades. If you really want a change, donate it or pass it off to a young person you know who’s just starting out. If it’s truly on its last legs, look around for a metal recycler in your area, who may take it for metal content in the stand and central pole.

“If everyone in Canada wrapped just three presents in reused paper or gift bags, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 hockey rinks,” zerowastecanada.ca reports.

• First off, buy unpackaged or low-packaged items to cut down on waste
• Use reusable gift wrapping like cloth bags
• Use new kitchen towels or a scarf and reusable twine
• Buy fabric from a remnant bin and wrap it around a present and secure with twine
• Recycle old newspapers, the comics, flyers, maps, or the paper that comes around bouquets of flowers
• Reuse old gift bags
• Forego gift tags and write in coloured pens onto the package
• Give gifts of experience or charitable donations instead – tickets and cards only need an envelope

Watch below: Google releases it's top trending in 2017, weather leads the way

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