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Green Christmas: Reducing holiday waste can save money, help environment

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What can be recycled?

Wrapping and tissue paper, non-foil type and free of glitter and embellishments: Place in single-stream recycling bins or in the green and yellow Paper Retriever bins throughout the A-K Valley

Packing peanuts and bubble wrap: Drop off at any local UPS Store

Cardboard, includes shipping boxes, shirt, shoe or other gift boxes and toy packaging: Place in home recycling bin or pick-up location

Christmas cards, free of embellishments and foil: Place in home recycling bin or pick-up location

What cannot be recycled?

• Laminated, coated or dyed gift bags, plus ribbons and bows

• Anything from the Christmas tree

Special rules for electronics disposal

State law requires televisions, computers and computer accessories to be recycled.

Drop off locations:

• Westmoreland Cleanways, 226 Donohoe Road, Greensburg, Monday-Friday by appointment

• Best Buy stores, will accept three items per day per customer, including flatscreen TVs and monitors up to 60” and other types up to 32.”

• Goodwill stores accept computer electronics only.

Home pickup option:

In some municipalities, Waste Management offers At Your Door Special Collection program for hazardous waste and electronics.

Call 800-449-7587 to set up an appointment. The service is free if your local municipality has included it as part of its contract with Waste Management.

Check with the company or your municipality to see if the service is offered.

By the numbers

• An estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high.

• Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated each week nationwide.

• 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year, enough to tie a bow around the Earth.

• If every American family wrapped three presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Sources: California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, Clean Air Council and University of Colorado Environmental Center

Tips for a greener holiday

• Use reusable bags during holiday shopping

• Use cloth napkins and silverware that can be washed and used again

• Recycle during holiday parties and dinners

• Purchase wrapping paper, bags and bows made from recycled or recyclable materials

• Find creative ways to repurpose holiday cards and wrapping paper

• Right-size holiday dinners — plan ahead so leftovers don't go to waste

Christmas tree recycling drop off locations

Allegheny Township : Maintenance building, 1169 School Road and Markle Fire Department Substation, intersection of White Cloud Road and Phillips Lane, drop off Dec. 26 to Jan. 31.

Lower Burrell : Municipal Building, near Leechburg Road and Schreiber Street, drop off Jan. 4 and 11, 9 a.m. to noon.

Deer Lakes Park : Parking lot by Veterans Shelter, drop off dusk to dawn.

Harrison Hills Park : Parking lot at Chipmunk and Cottontail drives, drop off dusk to dawn.

Hartwood Acres : Parking lot at the mansion, drop off dusk to dawn.

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Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 9:39 p.m.

For many of us, Christmas morning means a sea of wrapping paper, gift bags and toy packaging strewn around the living room floor.

It all gets stuffed into a big, black trash bag and, likely with a sigh of relief, the bag is toted right outside to the garbage bin.

But about 80 percent of what's typically thrown out during the holidays can be put into the recycling bin, said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for Republic Services, which provides trash pickup in Oakmont, Plum and Murrysville.

“With the hustle and bustle of Christmas day, for most people, recycling is not really top of mind. We've all been there,” Knocke said in an emailed statement. “This year, we want to encourage families to make recycling a part of their holiday tradition. It's a simple way to make a lasting difference in the local environment. … It can also potentially save families money by identifying items that can be reused or repurposed in a creative way.”

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, Americans generate about 25 percent additional trash, which is about 1.2 million tons of more waste headed to the landfill, according to estimates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“There's a lot more that can be recycled now due to changes in technology and advances in the process,” said Ellen Keefe, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect the environment.

Items such as cardboard boxes, including toy packaging; plastic; sales catalogs and newspapers can go into the recycling bin or be dropped off at a municipal collection site.

Determining which types of wrapping paper and gift bags can be recycled is a bit trickier.

The key is ensuring that they aren't wax-coated or dyed and don't have foil backing or embellishments.

“The bottom line is: It depends on which recycling options are available in our communities. Some communities have single-stream recycling that can take all kinds of paper,” Keefe said. “I would recommend that wrapping paper can be recycled. Put it in your bin, and if they can't use it, they'll take it out.”

If your community's recycler doesn't accept all types of paper, wrapping paper can be put in yellow-and-green Paper Retriever bins, Keefe said.

Other recyclable holiday items include: greeting cards that are foil-free and without glitter or embellishments, live Christmas trees and paper ribbon and bows. The traditional type of the latter isn't recyclable.

UPS stores accept bubble wrap and packing peanuts year-round.

“We reuse them,” said Michael Magrish, owner of The UPS Store on Freeport Road in O'Hara, not far from Fox Chapel Plaza.

“A lot of times, it's the same people who bring it in all year 'round,” he said. But he encourages more people to take advantage of the option because otherwise the non-recyclable items would end up in the landfill.

“It helps the environment,” Magrish said. “It's better to reuse it than throw it away.”

In Butler County, recycling actually can save customers money, said Sheryl Kelly, coordinator of the county's Department of Recycling and Waste Management.

“Most people have a choice of size of garbage service, and if you recycle, it could allow you to divert to the lower trash service,” she said. “The haulers set all those guidelines.”

And with many people likely to get new electronic gadgets, computers or televisions, Keefe reminds residents that state law requires old electronics to be recycled.

“Some people don't realize that until they have to throw a TV away and their garbage man doesn't take it,” she said.

Recycling options include, Westmoreland Cleanways, which will take electronics drop-offs by appointment on the weekdays; Goodwill accepts computers and accessories; and Best Buy takes three items a day, per customer.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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