Time to Recycle or Compost Holiday Decorations & Food

Before you throw away any of those holiday decorations or food scraps, Water Expert Denise Hickey and Horticulturalist Patrick Dickinson want you to know where most end up versus where they should go.

Decor – Think Recycle or Compost First
Over 50% of our landfills are full of compostable material and, of the remaining 50%, a good portion is recyclable. The more we can reduce the waste stream by recycling, it extends the current life of our landfill. It’s important to be smarter about what goes into the trash, and what should be recycled or composted since a majority of holiday waste is recyclable or  compostable. For example, all the boxes shipped to homes with gifts, and plastic packaging new toys come in could be recycled. If you are an avid gardener, consider using those boxes as sheet mulch in your gardens and landscapes.

Composting plays a significant role when it comes to holiday waste, especially for the avid gardener. The mums and pumpkins left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving are all compostable. Pumpkins add a significant amount of Nitrogen that is required for the composting process. It is better to put these items back into the soil as opposed to throwing them away to end up in the landfill.

And this time of year, thousands of Poinsettias can be seen all over the place as a staple winter decoration. Too many end up in the landfill  but they also make great compost ingredients. The same is true for real trees, garland and wreaths – please do not throw them away! Most cities have a tree recycling program where all the trees are chipped up and either composted or used as mulch. The same goes for those real garland and wreaths.

Food – Compost Veggies and Trash Meats
The best way to remember what is compostable and what  is not is to think of it like this: what comes out of the ground can go back in the ground. Anything grown or of plants should go back in the ground. When preparing meals and snacks this winter, collect all the vegetable and fruit scraps. There is no reason to throw them away when they all belong in compost used to enrich our soil, and not in landfill. This does not include meats and proteins or sugars. All of those proteins, or from an animal, need to be disposed of and not composted.

If you put Fats, Oils, Greases, and other solids (FOGS) down the drain, they will harden and cling to the walls in your household pipes or city sewer lines. Once hardened, this reduces water flow and could cause a sewage backup into your home or neighborhood. FOG comes from meats, butter, food scraps, sauces and gravy, dairy products, and cooking oil.

When you have finished cooking, collect liquid grease and oils in a sealable container that you can take to a local drop-off location to be recycled. Many of these locations will provide you with a new container you can use. For the grease that cannot be poured into the container, you should wipe pans clean with a paper towel and put it in the trash. Food scraps should also go in the trash. Scrape off excess food from pots, pans, and plates before rinsing them in the sink with cold water. Learn more at DefendYourDrainsNorthTexas.com.

Visit WaterMyYard.org for tips on watering, and WaterUniversity.Tamu.edu for information on composting and more.