City offers tips to reduce waste

Post-holiday recycling makes use of trees and wrapping paper.
Friday, December 31, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

After the shopping malls stop playing catchy Christmas tunes, and when living room floors are no longer covered in packages decorated with brightly colored paper and shiny bows, the question still remains — what to do with all of this stuff?

Columbia Public Works offers a few environmentally friendly solutions to the problem of too much stuff that many Columbians encounter during the post-holiday season.

Christine Gardener, a recycling program assistant for the Columbia Public Works Volunteer Program, helped coordinate this year’s 10th annual Use Less Stuff Holiday Campaign.

The campaign seeks to help residents think about ways to minimize holiday waste through using less and reusing more.

“There is no point in having a 25-pound turkey when you only have three people to eat it,” she said.

The campaign notes that each year, 28 billion pounds of edible food is wasted in the United States.

One tip offered by Use Less is to recycle cards and paper leftover from packages for party invitations later in the year. Using postcards as invitations helps to reduce the use of paper for envelopes. In addition, the campaign suggests giving away presents that are not being used, by either regifting them or taking them to charitable organizations.

Columbia Public Works is also offering an alternative to throwing away used Christmas trees. Since 1991, the city has had a Christmas tree recycling program, which will continue this year. Until Jan. 31, whole trees free of ornaments, tree stands and carrying bags will be picked up curbside on regular refuse collection days. After January, the trees must be cut into 4 foot bundles and set out with yard waste.

As Angela Gehlert, the waste minimization coordinator for the city of Columbia explains, the trees will either be ground for mulch or taken to the Missouri Department of Conservation for use as fish and wildlife cover.

“The trees make a good habitat for rabbits,” she said.

The mulch that is produced by the trees will be available for free at the Capen Park and Parkside mulch and compost sites in Columbia. Anyone can pick up loads of mulch during the day.

According to Columbia Public Works Volunteer Program, the five-week holiday season from Nov. 18 to Jan. 1 adds an extra 25 million tons of trash to the usual collection each year in the United States.

In Columbia, as Cynthia Mitchell, the city’s waste management supervisor explains, there is not a dramatic increase in overall residential trash during the holiday season. However, she said that is misleading because much of the city population does not remain in Columbia during the holidays. Therefore, even the small increase in overall residential trash during this time means a large increase in waste per person.

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