Ask an expert

How can holiday trash be kept out of landfills?

From the dazzling displays of decorations to the parties teeming with presents and plates of goodies, the holidays are not exactly a time of moderation.

Amidst this celebratory crescendo of consumption, we can offer a gift to Mother Nature by making recycling and repurposing seasonal traditions as well. While the holidays come and go in a wink of St. Nick's eye, the garbage left behind in landfills leaves an impact on the environment for generations. But there are simple ways to keep promoting joy to the world by diverting items that can be recycled. It can also potentially save your family money by identifying items that can be reused in creative ways.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American household throws away nearly 125 pounds of trash in a normal week. From Thanksgiving to New Year's, the heap grows by about 25 percent, or a staggering 940 pounds of waste generated during that period.

The promising news is that roughly 80 percent of what is discarded during the holidays could be recycled or reused. And it doesn't take as much effort as you might think.

Right outside your front door, the Village of Hinsdale will collect real Christmas trees for free when placed at the curb during the weeks following New Year's Day. All decorations and trimming must be removed. An artificial tree is treated as a bulk item, however, and requires two garbage stickers for collection.

Have some light strands that are losing their powers of illumination? Don't throw them away - take them to one of these nearby recycling locations (by the date noted):

• Oak Brook Public Library, 600 Oak Brook Road (until Jan. 13)

• Westmont Public Library, 428 N Cass Ave. (through January)

• Johanik Fire Station Headquarters, 6015 S. Cass Ave., Westmont (through January)

• Darien Police Department, 1710 Plainfield Road (until mid-February)

• Downers Grove Fire Station 2, 5420 Main St. (until Feb. 10)

For a full listing of holiday lighting collection sites in DuPage County, visit

The EPA also provides a number of waste reduction tips to make your festivities both fun and environmentally friendly:

• Minimize food waste by carefully planning your holiday menu. The agency reports that more food ends up in landfills than any other single item.

• Make your own refreshments to cut down on excess packaging. Use durable, reusable plates and serving ware when possible.

• Be resourceful when thinking of gifts, decorations and crafts by repurposing recycled items such as glass bottles and aluminum cans, or gently used gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons and bows. Many creative ideas for breathing new life into these materials can be found online.

• Repurpose packaging such as foam peanuts and bubble wrap, and start your own packing utility box to store these materials for future use.

• Use shredded newspaper for packing material in lieu of purchasing new foam peanuts or bubble wrap.

• Reuse holiday cards by converting them into gift tags or decorations. - by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean