Options abound for discarding holiday refuse in environmentally friendly ways
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com December 27, 2012 5:02PM
A Christmas tree lies on the parkway of Deering Bay Drive on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2010, in the Tall Grass subdivision in Naperville. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Electronics collection events
Two local churches will host electronics recycling collection days during January.
St. Margaret Mary Parish, 1450 Green Trails Drive, will have volunteers taking electronic goods from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 12.
St. Timothy Lutheran Church, 1313 Mill St., will have an electronics recycling event from 8:30 a.m. to noon Jan. 26.
Both churches earned Earth Flags, recognizing their commitment to environmentally sustainable practices, from Glen Ellyn-based School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE) during 2012.
For more information about local recycling programs, including materials that can and cannot be accepted, go to: www.naperville.il.us/recyclecenter.aspx; www.co.dupage.il.us/recycling/ and www.willcountygreen.com
Updated: January 29, 2013 6:18AM
This is the week when garbage bins typically groan a bit under the weight of Christmas excess, but there are ways to keep the strain down.
A variety of materials thrown away after the holiday can be discarded in more environmentally benign ways than an unceremonious one-way trip to the landfill. From composting trees to passing items along to have valuable metals inside them gleaned, the array of options merits a look.
That evergreen that’s beginning to shed lots of needles onto the living room floor might be a good place to start.
“Those are the biggies: the Christmas trees, and your real wreath, and the roping. Willowbrook Wildlife Center wants those,” said Kay McKeen, founder ad executive director of School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE) in Glen Ellyn.
All lights, ornaments, tinsel, bows and wire need to removed before the green goods are sent off to serve as habitat for the wildlife center’s creatures.
“We need them delivered. We don’t do pickup,” Willowbrook employee Stephanie Cosby said.
The center is at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Even easier is dragging the tired old tree to the curb to await municipal pickup. Naperville residents can set their stripped-down trees and other evergreenery out with the rest of their garbage on their regular collection days during the weeks that begin Jan. 7 and Jan. 14. For those who live in unincorporated areas, the Naperville Township Road District will collect trees from the curb on Mondays through January. Wreaths will not be picked up and should be set out with the regular refuse.
In Will County, embellishment-free trees can be dropped off at any of four locations where they will be collected and ground into mulch. Between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily through Jan. 7, trees may be brought to the Isle a la Cache Museum, 501 East 135th St. (Romeo Road), Romeoville; Plum Creek Nature , 27064 S. Dutton Road, in Crete Township; the Sugar Creek Administration Center, 17540 W. Laraway Road, Joliet; or Monee Reservoir, 27341 Ridgeland Ave., Monee.
McKeen had an additional suggestion, perhaps the greenest of them all: put the tree in the backyard, decorated again, only this time with pine cones that have been smeared with peanut butter. The natural ornaments will serve as wildlife food, and the frozen ground won’t be harmed by the trees, McKeen said.
Once the pine cones and peanut butter have been thoroughly nibbled, the trees will continue to provide shelter and a wintertime windbreak for animals that frequent the yard.
Gift wrap is readily recyclable as well, she noted, even that which has touches of foil, but ribbon and decorations must be peeled off before it is put into the bin.
Electronics also can be recycled with ease. Naperville city spokeswoman Kate Houlihan said the recent move of the city’s recycling drop-off site around the corner at the city’s Public Works center brought added convenience for those who need to dispose of electronic goods, which have been banned from Illinois landfills since the beginning of the year.
“Because of that reconfiguration, we are able to accept electronics items on all three days that the recycling center is available,” Houlihan said. “This is the time of year when people tend to get new electronics and discard their old ones.”
Also recyclable in the same spot are most varieties of string lights.
“There’s copper in there, so you want to make sure to recycle them,” McKeen said.
Last year, she said, the 28 sites in DuPage County took in nearly 45,000 pounds of holiday lights.
“That’s several garbage truckloads,” McKeen said, adding that more drop-off sites have been added this year.
Naperville’s drop-off program, also run from the Public Works campus, tallied about 8,800 pounds between Nov. 21, 2011, and March 30, 2012, Houlihan said.
Located at 180 Fort Hill Drive, the recycling center operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Non-working light strings also can be brought to several Naperville Park District sites through the second week of January. Drop-off locations include the Barn Recreation Center, 421 W. Martin Ave.; Naperbrook Golf Course, 22204 Hassert Blvd., Plainfield; Springbrook Golf Course, 2220 W. 83rd St.; and the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, 305 Jackson Ave.
McKeen also recommends removing the hooks and collars attached to ornaments when fragile ones break and must be tossed. The scrap metal can be kept in a bucket with other metallic odds and ends, she said, until there is enough to send off for processing.
Even better than recycling, which requires energy and resources, is the hand-me-down principle. Goodwill can use unbroken ornaments that no longer find their way to the tree, McKeen said, and SCARCE redistributes toys, books and many other goods for reuse. If the children are straightening up their toy closets to make room for new items, those old Monopoly games and jigsaw puzzles can be checked for missing parts and then packed up for donating.
“The kids need to do the puzzle one more time, to make sure all the pieces are there, and then tape the box closed on all four sides,” McKeen said.
Even holiday greeting cards can be repurposed. Cut off the inside half and put it in the recycling bin, and what remains can be transformed into next year’s gift tags, or used as a postcard. McKeen noted that the new incarnation weighs less, which means less fuel is needed for shipping it, and it costs less to mail than a regular first-class letter.
“Last year, my sister was so amazed to get the Christmas card she’d sent me back as a postcard,” she said.