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How to reduce your waste during the holidays

Did you know waste increases 25 per cent during the holidays?

3 min read
caption Christmas garbage
kaitlynn burns
caption Christmas bag and wrapping paper in the garbage
kaitlynn burns

Waste management during the holiday season can be tricky. When the used garland, wrapping paper, bags, tinsel and bows pile up, it can be tough to keep the environment in mind.  

But your holiday doesn’t have to be wasteful, says Shannon Betts, waste resource analyst for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Betts says waste increases by about 25 per cent during the holiday and some recycling mistakes become more common.

“We see a lot of times people will mix their paper in the same bag with their bottles, cans, and plastics. We have to make sure that the paper is in a separate bag because once it gets to our recycling facility, we have two separate lines where we sort that material,” she said.

Due to an increase in parties and celebrations, Betts says they also see more disposable utensils and plates end up in recycling or the compost.

“If you’re having a party you should really try to use real dishes and real cutlery instead of disposable products. If  you have to use disposable plates, paper is better than Styrofoam  because you can compost paper plates.”

Here are a few tips on how to properly dispose of your holiday decorations and reduce your waste during the season of giving.

The tree

Reusable Christmas trees and decorations can be stored and reused for several years. Real Christmas trees will be picked up on your regular green cart collection week, after the holidays.

Remember to remove any plastic, tinsel, metal rings and nails. These items can’t be composted.


Compost as much natural greenery as possible. Wreaths with any metal wire or plastic go in garbage bags.

Paper gift wrap (with no foil or bows) can be recycled along with your other household paper and cardboard recycling.

Gift boxes can be recycled with your other household paper and cardboard recycling.

Foil wrap, gift bags, bows, and ribbon that can’t be reused go in the garbage.

Decorate gifts with natural pine cones, greenery, or dried berries so they can be composted afterwards.

Reused items

Use last year’s wrapping paper, newspaper, comics, or old maps as wrapping paper. Try to reuse as many bows, ribbon, and gift bags as possible.

Use old shoe boxes as gift boxes and give old toys or clothing to a charitable organization instead of throwing them out.

Betts says it’s also important to remember the number of garbage bags allowed at the curb during collection: single-unit homes have a limit of six garbage bags, while multi-unit buildings have a limit of four.

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