The holidays are the season of merry-making and mirth, but they also are a time of generating trash — piles and piles of trash.
The avalanche of holiday detritus — packaging, wrapping, plastic casing — can make the holiday hangover that much worse. What to do with all of this...trash?
The amount of stuff Americans throw away from Thanksgiving to New Year's climbs by 25 percent — about 25 million tons — according to environmentalists Robert Lilienfeld and William Rathje in their book "Use Less Stuff."
But in Sonoma County, much of that stuff can be recycled.
Most wrapping paper that is not metallic is recyclable, said Patrick Carter, department analyst with the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. Those hard plastic containers that are seemingly ubiquitous on children's toys? They can be recycled along with the cardboard container they come in.
But some stuff does not belong in the blue bin, Carter said.
Bows and ribbons should be reused, not recycled. "A bag full of ribbon will spread and gum up the machine," Carter said of the recyling sorter.
Styrofoam cannot be recycled locally although packing peanuts typically can be dropped off at any shipping store to be re-used, Carter said.
But even better than recycling is re-using, Carter said. "If people can get creative with how they reuse the stuff, that is even better than recycling," he said.
That means, take the card off of those gift bags and use them next year. Ribbons and bows? Coil 'em up and reuse those, too. And you probably won't have to wait until next Christmas to find a use for some of the more standard-sized shipping and packaging boxes.
Use folded squares of wrapping paper instead of intricate — and wasteful — gift tags.
And when it comes time to really bid adieu to the season and kick your tree to the curb, much of Sonoma County is served by curb-side tree pickup.
There are also a number of county-sponsored drop-off sites and a slew of non-profit groups that will arrange to pick up trees for donation. Trees picked up curb-side will be ground up for mulch, Carter said.
Feeling industrious? If you cut up your tree and make it fit in the garden waste bin, it will be hauled off with the rest of your weekly green waste.
With so much of holiday paper, plastics and glass now recyclable, Carter said as long as its clean, it's better to opt for the blue recycle bin than the trash can.
"They can sort it out," he said.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield can be reached at 526-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @benefield.