Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 12/15/2003
Subject: Reducing Waste at the Holidays
Contact: Brian Cox, Director of Environmental Health
Phone: 445-6215

Reducing Waste at the Holidays
The days after holidays are often major hauling days for garbage collection companies. Just picture that monstrous pile of wrapping paper under the tree after Christmas -- not to mention the tree itself.
Paper makes up over 30 percent of California's solid waste stream. During the Christmas season alone, the average household will generate between 3 and 10 bags of beyond-the-ordinary trash. And with California's population topping 30 million people, that's a lot of extra waste and one large "present" for the landfill.
It's easy to go overboard with gift-wrapping. Rather than buy expensive wrapping paper, ribbons and cards try putting more "gift" in your gift-wrap. Instead of disposable paper, make the wrapping part of the gift or use an item that can be reused such as old tins, hatboxes, fabric and other containers that will make a unique or funny, package for your gift. These can all be easily found at many local thrift stores.
The Christmas tree has long been a symbol of joy and glad tidings with gifts seeming to grow at its base. But what happens to your beautiful tree after all the presents are opened, the feast is finished, and members of the family have each gone their separate ways? You may be happy to know that your Christmas tree's useful life doesn't need to come to an end once the ornaments are carefully packed away.
Every year, more than 40,000 tons of Christmas trees require handling at the end of the holiday season in California. A growing awareness of environmental issues, coupled with a mandate to reduce the disposal of still-valuable resources, has convinced growing numbers of California cities and counties to plan Christmas tree recovery programs that give old Tannenbaum a second life. After chipping and shredding, the trees can be used as: (1) mulch for water conservation and weed control; (2) erosion and/or dust control on hiking trails and bridle paths; (3) additives in composting operations; or (4) alternative fuel in special power generation facilities called "biomass" co-generation facilities.
Here in Humboldt County there are many places that will accept your tree for a small fee or at no charge. Humboldt Sanitation in McKinleyville, Hawthorne Street Transfer Station in Eureka and Eel River Disposal in Fortuna will accept trees for free until January 15. Eureka residents also have the choice to call City Garbage to have it picked up curbside on January 3 and 10 for a $5.00 fee and McKinleyville curbside participants can have their trees picked up by Humboldt Sanitation for $1.00 per foot. North Coast Quality Compost will accept trees from Arcata residents for free and from others for a small fee if the tree is smaller than 4-inches in diameter. A bin at Blue Lake’s Perigot Park will be available to accept trees between December 27 and January 10. Trinidad residents can drop their trees at a bin in the Murphy’s Market parking lot from January 4 through January 11. On Sunday, January 4, Ferndale residents can take trees to the City Barn on Francis Street or, if transportation is not an option, place it curbside by 9am to be picked up by Ferndale High’s “S” Club volunteers. Rio Dell residents can take trees to the Pacific Lumber green-waste site in Scotia. For more information call your City’s Recycling Coordinator or the County’s Waste Reduction Hotline at 268-2225.
Christmas tree recovery programs are just one part of broader efforts to reduce holiday waste. For instance, one way to prevent waste is to purchase a living Christmas tree or a reusable artificial tree. Either choice eliminates the need for post-holiday tree waste management. Though many argue there is a direct correlation between consumerism and economic health, a little forethought on the part of holiday shoppers and home entertainers reduces unnecessary waste without negatively impacting the local economy. Gifts of durable goods in sensible packaging, the use of washable plates at parties, and donations of used or unwanted clothes and toys are all examples of simple holiday waste reduction ideas that benefit the long-term economic and environmental health.
Remembering the ethics of reduce, reuse and recycle during traditional times of celebration reinforces a community's waste reduction efforts and helps California meet its resource conservation goals. For other tips on reducing your waste this holiday season, check out the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s ideas at, The Green Holiday Guide at, or feel free to call Humboldt County’s Waste Reduction hotline at 268-2225.


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