Canadians produce 25% more garbage during the holidays than the rest of the year.
Some of the main items contributing to this waste include packaging, food, and wrapping paper.
What can you do to prevent waste this holiday season? And if you do end up with waste, how can you divert it from the landfill?
When looking at our tips below, remember…prevention is always better than diversion.
Choose sustainable wrapping options. To truly reduce waste, try wrapping everything in reusable holiday bags. Make your own out of secondhand material or an old t-shirt. Alternatively, purchase one from Reclaim Mending.
Estimate how many people will be joining you, and plan the amount of food you make accordingly. Despite careful planning, leftovers are very common. To prevent the leftovers from being wasted, ensure you plan your meal according to the number of people in your household, store your leftovers properly, and compost what you’re unable to finish.
Packaging from gifts and food is the source of so much unnecessary waste around the holidays.
Gift packaging: Prevent this waste by choosing sustainable gifts. If you’re choosing something that’s not on our list of sustainable gifts, find something that does not come individually wrapped.
Food packaging: If purchasing meat or cheese, choose a deli where you can buy local meat/cheese. For vegetables, choose unpackaged ones and bring your own produce bag. Check out Direct Farm Manitoba to find a local farm who has winter storage vegetables available (such as carrots, beets, onions, and potatoes).
Packaging leftovers: When packaging leftover food, be sure to use reusable containers or beeswax wrap.
Christmas Trees/Holiday Decorations
When decorating your house for the holidays, ensure you’re choosing sustainable options that won’t end up producing more waste.
Ornaments: Reuse the ones you already have. If purchasing new ones, find some second hand decorations or make your own.
Trees: The conversation about whether a live tree or artificial tree is more sustainable is a challenging one because of the resources required to produce and dispose of them (more here). Instead of purchasing a tree, consider decorating a houseplant or making a holiday display using wind-fallen branches.
Have wrapping paper waste from the holidays? In Winnipeg, holiday wrapping paper and tissue paper can’t be recycled in your blue bin. If you have chosen to wrap your gifts in this type of paper, fold it up until next year when you’ll be able to reuse it. Otherwise, bring it to ReGen Compostites to be recycled.
The best thing to do is to learn for next year to choose sustainable wrapping options.
If you have food waste, ensure it doesn’t end up in the landfill (where it will produce methane). Instead, compost it. If you don’t have a backyard compost bin or vermicomposting setup at your home, find a community bin to bring your food waste to or contact Compost Winnipeg to inquire about pickup.
Note: meat and dairy can’t be composted in your backyard, community, or vermicomposting bin.
Cardboard: Recycle this in your blue bin. Ensure you’ve removed tape residue from any cardboard, and collapse boxes before putting them in your bin.
Plastic: Generally, rigid white/clear plastic can be recycled in your blue bin. Rigid black plastic and film plastic (bags and plastic wrap) cannot. This can be brought to ReGen Composites to be recycled, otherwise it needs to be sent to the landfill.
Compostable packaging: If you end up with compostable packaging, do not put this in your backyard compost or blue bin. It needs to be composted in a commercial compost facility. If you don’t have access to commercial compost pickup, this packaging needs to be sent to the landfill.
Christmas Trees/Holiday Decorations
Ornaments: Unless you’re going to pull apart all of the different parts of your ornament, they’re likely not recyclable. If broken, these likely need to be sent to the landfill. If they’re still in good condition but you don’t want them anymore, bring them to a thrift store or give them to a friend.
Live trees: Remove all ornaments and decorations and compost your tree. Click here for a list of tree drop-off locations in Winnipeg. If you’re not located in Winnipeg, contact your local municipal office to inquire about where to bring your tree.
Artificial trees: If your artificial tree still has life, donate it to a thrift store, local organization, or friend. If it’s at the end of it’s life and you’re located in/near Winnipeg you can bring it to ReGen Composites to be recycled. Otherwise, it needs to to be sent to the landfill.
Further Post-Holiday Tips
Receive a gift for the holidays you won’t use? Donate it to an organization who is searching for the item or bring it to a thrift store where it can be re-sold. Prevent someone from purchasing the item new instead of holding onto a gift you will not use.
Planning for next year
Now that you have dealt with this year’s waste, why not start planning for next year. Consider a “Reducing” and “Reusing” theme for next year instead of just recycling.
Tempted by post-holiday (specifically boxing day) sales? Before heading to the mall, read our blog about buy nothing day.