SHERIDAN — The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that waste disposal increases more than 25 percent in the United States during the holidays, creating an extra 5 billion pounds of waste in the landfills.
The city of Sheridan Solid Waste Division collects refuse from residential and commercial customers of the city and reports that Sheridan customers generate approximately 34,000 tons of solid waste each year.
As an effort to keep reusable items out of the dump, green waste bins are set out for live Christmas tree disposal from now through Jan. 31.
Five locations host the bins including the landfill, the skate park parking area at 11th and Dana street, the intersection of Fifth and Highland streets, Washington Park and Marshall Park.
Trees left at these locations will be composted and mulched for use or sale by the city.
But the increase in solid waste is not just from discarded trees.
The nature of gifting can be highly wasteful, between greeting cards, packing, wrapping and decorating, a lot of the holiday ends up in the trash.
For example, did you know that most mass produced wrapping paper is not recyclable and ends up in landfills?
So why throw it out when there are several fun and easy ways to repurpose the waste, like turning it into a holiday decoration?
Making Christmas decorations after Christmas may seem a little late, but you can give it to someone as a thank-you gift for all the great presents or keep it handy for when you realize you forgot to get a present for your aunt.
Here are some ideas found on crafting websites including instructables.com, marthastewart.com, pinterest.com and etsy.com on ways to creatively repurpose those holiday items and reduce your contribution to the winter waste.
The waste: Once all the presents are wrapped with care and placed under the tree, you are left with a long cardboard tube that usually gets tossed.
The reuse: Cut the cardboard pipe into 3-inch tall cylinders. Stuff each section with the leftover scraps of wrapping paper and fill in any gaps with old dryer lint. You now have a convenient fire starter to get that warm glow roaring.
The waste: Tommy and Suzy have torn open their packages and ran off to try their new toys. Mounds of ripped wrapping paper are headed for the trash.
The reuse: Make a wrapping paper wreath. Simply smooth out the wrapping paper a bit and cut it in to strips about one inch wide by any length longer than three inches. This does not have to be precise, just make a lot of these strips. Take an old wire coat hanger and bend it in to a circle. Drape a strip of paper around the coat hanger and twist it like a twist tie. Keep twisting and sliding the strips together to make the wreath full until you don’t see the hanger anymore. When the wreath is full, trim any long pieces, add a bow or ribbon (I’m sure you have one or two of those headed for the trash) and you’re done.
The waste: Wishes of warm tidings flooded your mailbox and spent the month on display in the hall. Now they’re headed to the dump.
The reuse: Make a Christmas card tree. Cut various size circles out of the Christmas cards. Cut out a pie slice shaped wedge from each circle (think Pac Man). Curl the circle into a cone shape, pattern side up, overlapping the edges but leaving a hole at the tip of the cone and tape the sides together from the back. To make the base, cut a hole in the top of a small discarded gift box and put a straight branch from the tree or other dowel through the hole. Slide the largest cone shape down the stick and then twist a small rubber band or wad up used tape about an inch above that cones tip. Continue this process alternating progressively smaller cone shapes with rubber bands. Top the paper Christmas tree with the smallest cone shape and a leftover ribbon or bow.
The waste: Uncle Johnny had a drink, or two, over the holidays, and now you’re throwing out corks galore.
The reuse: Make cork ornaments. Assemble reindeer using a cork for each of the legs, the body, the neck and the head and hold them together with the toothpicks from the cheese-tray. Or slice the corks into more shallow circles and connect the sides to make snowmen.
The waste: As you’re taking down the tree a branch or two and approximately 1,000 pine needles hit the floor.
The reuse: The needles. Gather the pine needles in a sachet and place throughout the house to hold that holiday fresh scent longer.
The reuse: The branches. Fill a window box with sand and stick the trimmed down sticks in the sand to form a scenic backdrop for the leftover berry clusters of holly or mistletoe. This colorful window display would also be a good place to stash a needle pouch.
The waste: After the baby has climbed around in the box that the toys came in and lost interest, off the packaging goes to the garbage.
The reuse: Hold on to the boxes and packing peanuts for the next time you have to ship something. Or give them away to someone collecting boxes for an up-coming move. And when all else fails…
Maybe you aren’t interested in arts and crafts, or just don’t have the time. The next best thing you can do is recycle your unwanted items.
For the next two weeks solid waste increases 25% but recycling also increases 30%, according to Paul Larson Supervisor for Recycling and Solid Waste with the SWD.
Larson says recycling drop sites’ mixtures are greater after the holidays and staff has to do more sorting.
“The paper products are our biggest issue” he said. “If it’s got that real glossy finish it’s not recyclable and everything gets all mixed together. But as long as they keep it out of the garbage, it helps.”
Larson noted that most packing peanuts, cardboard boxes and many other packaging supplies are also recyclable.
When in doubt, don’t throw it out, recycle it. If the item is not recyclable it will make its way to the dump but the professionals can determine that.
Larson says the best thing you can do to help the recycling team out around the holidays is take the time to sort it out.
“The plastics and papers all increase so as long as they do a good job of sorting at the drop,” he said, “we’ll take care of the rest.”