2015-12-18 / Community

Sustainable SoPo

How can you reuse, repurpose during holidays?

The holidays are in full swing, a time for gathering with friends and family, attending events and office parties, shopping, holiday travel and ringing in 2016. These fun times usually mean a shocking increase in the waste we generate; studies show a whopping 25 percent or more increase in the volume of trash in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and New Years. That’s 1 million extra tons. Ouch. Is it necessary to continue this part of the tradition year after year? Of course not. With each of us making one or two small changes, we can make a tremendous impact.

Reduce. Reuse. Repurpose. Recycle.

We hear these four “R” words a lot lately, but the focus tends to be on the recycling component of what we’ve recently purchased or keep purchasing. Let’s look at ways to reduce, reuse and repurpose for the duration of the holidays and going forward to reduce trash and recycling altogether. We will focus on paper and food waste, two of the biggest residential garbage issues that face South Portland.

Paper and paper products

Paper/paper products make up the bulk of the material (61 percent) received at the ecomaine facility in Portland (where our recycling is sorted).

• Reduce paper shopping bag usage – bring your own, go without, ask for a used box for heavier items such as cans and bottles. Reuse or recycle the box.

• Repurpose and recycle paperboard and paper from gifts and holiday grocery purchases.

• Greeting cards - send eCards (fun!). If you buy, buy recycled content cards.

• Gift wrapping alternatives

• Decorative storage tins, baskets, paper gift bags. Reuse, repurpose, repeat!

• Fabric gift bags (sew or buy local, wash, re-use)

• Cartoon section from the newspaper.

• Decorate your paper bags or plain paper.

• If you buy, buy recycled content paper and then recycle it.

Party goods

• Use real plates, cups, silverware and cloth napkins (Offer to coordinate this effort).

• Large party? try renting plates, glasses and silverware. It costs about $1.50 per place setting (basic style plate, one glass and set of silverware).

• Most plastic silverware can’t be recycled and Styrofoam is not recyclable through ecomaine.

Food waste

Food waste is wet, heavy and costly to haul away in our bins each week. We encourage everyone to compost and/ or help us to find community solutions to this crucial issue.

• Residential curb-side pickup

• Your own backyard bin

• Share space in a neighbor’s bin

• Set up a community bin

Reduce gift size/quantity

• Adults: perhaps you agree to stop gift-giving altogether or reduce the volume. Try picking a name from a hat and exchange one gift with one family member.

• Make gifts, preferably with materials you already own.

• Concert/event tickets

• Gift cards

• Your time – offer a service: cooking, cleaning, repairing, painting.

A reminder

For the safety of ecomaine’s employees and for the efficient operation of the facility, never place these items in your blue recycling bin: string lights, electrical cords, string, rope, ribbon, yarn, carpeting, propane tanks, chainsaws, power tools and wood.

The South Portland Energy and Recycling Committee meets the third Wednesday of each month at the South Portland Community Center. Meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and are open to the public.

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