Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Recharge

The gifts have been opened, the parties enjoyed, the feasts have been eaten. But before you relax, spend some time thinking about how you can reduce, recycle, and reuse the waste that was generated during the holidays. An additional one million tons of waste is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Giving a second life to products allows us to enjoy the holiday season while still being earth-friendly. Here are a few examples of how to help:

Reduce: It’s likely you have a stack of catalogs that were delivered pre-holidays – now is the time to cancel those you don’t need. When you purchase drinks and snacks for New Year’s and Super Bowl parties, buy in bulk. You can reduce food-packaging waste by substituting large bottles of soda for individual cans or bottles. You can eliminate a major source of plastic waste by skipping bottled water altogether. Pitchers of iced tap water (flavored with cucumber, lemon or lime slices) are less expensive and much better for the Earth. Many breweries refill growlers, allowing you to buy local while reducing the use of individual beer bottles or cans. Items such as individually wrapped candies, chip bags, and other snacks generate a lot of waste and bulk options are usually available.

Recycle: Christmas trees can be recycled into compost and mulch. After the holidays place your Christmas tree curbside for pick up. Before recycling, your tree must be free of flocking, tinsel, decorations and its stand. Wrapping paper, greeting cards, cardboard packing and other paper products can be recycled in your curbside recycling cart. Keep in mind, foil‐backed, metallic, and plastic wrapping paper CANNOT be recycled.

In Sonoma County, fruit and vegetable food scraps can be put in the curbside yard debris cart for the municipal composting program. In Ukiah and the adjacent unincorporated area of Mendocino County residents can place food waste along with green waste into the green waste bin.  You can compost your fruit and vegetable food scraps from your holiday dinners and parties at home, too. Recycle the cooking oil, if you deep fry a turkey. Check out our website at for locations in both Sonoma County and Mendocino County that accept clean strained cooking oil for biodiesel production.

When purchasing a new electronic device, ask the sales staff at the electronics store if they will take your old device back for recycling. In some areas, small electronic devices can be disposed of in the curbside recycling. Check with your local garbage company for more information. Recycle your old cell phones. State law requires that retailers selling cell phones take back used cell phones at time of purchase.

Reuse: Save ribbons and large pieces of wrapping paper to reuse on next year’s packages. Many local packaging stores and mail centers are glad to accept styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap packaging for reuse. If that old iPad or laptop still works, consider donating the device to charity.

Recharge: About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away and can save money in the long run. By law, retailers selling rechargeable batteries are required to take back used rechargeable batteries from their customers. For a list of these retailers, visit the Call2Recycle website at

Old batteries cannot be disposed of in the garbage. Some stores offer take‐back for alkaline batteries, in addition to rechargeables. Ask the sales staff where you buy your batteries if they will take your used ones back for recycling. All kinds of household batteries can also be disposed of through Sonoma County’s Household Toxics Program and the Mendocino County HazMobile Program. In Mendocino County, household batteries can also be disposed at the Ukiah Valley Transfer Station.

In the future, brighten your holidays while saving money with LED lights. LED’s use 75% less energy than conventional holiday lights and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. They also offer convenient features like dimming and automatic shut-off.

For any questions about recycling and year‐round disposal options:

In Sonoma County, visit, call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at 565‐DESK (3375), or look for your Sonoma County Recycling Guide printed in “The Real” Yellow Pages phone book under Recycling.

In Mendocino County, call the Recycling Hotline at 468‐9704, visit


This article was authored by Ann DuBay, Sonoma County Water Agency, with much of the content provided by the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency on behalf of RRWA. RRWA ( is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.