By George Stubbs
Packaging, packaging, packaging—it’s that time of year when gifts are being ordered for exchange on Christmas day, and the piles of cardboard, wrapping paper, and plastics of many different varieties, especially Styrofoam, will start to pile up. With many people now shopping on line, there’s even more packaging to deal with, like air pillows and packing peanuts (we won’t go into what’s happening to our greenhouse gas emissions profile with all those delivery trucks on the road).
Disposing of all that packaging in our regular trash increases the amount of garbage that the city sends out for incineration, and thus increases costs to the city. Fortunately, many of us want to do the right thing and recycle that packaging. Unfortunately, a lot of it can’t go in the curbside bin, and we don’t always know what the alternatives might be. There are just so many different categories of packaging, and they’re changing all the time as the packaging industry comes up with new ways to protect products during transfer from the factory to the warehouse or retailer and on to the home.
The Melrose Department of Public Works (DPW) is helping out by holding a special collection event at the DPW Yard on Saturday, January 5, from 8 a.m. to noon. During this event, DPW will accept drop-off of the following items:
• Cardboard (clean and flattened)
• Gift wrapping and other paper
• Clothing and textiles
• Plastic bags (e.g., Macy’s; make sure they’re clean)
• Christmas trees (no wire, decorations, stands, or attached plastic bags; trees will also be picked up curbside in early January)
• Air bubble wrap (cleaned and air removed)
• Styrofoam (the kind that electronic products and appliances come in, not the kind that food comes in).
• Electronics (with a charge for TVs and monitors)
• Tires (additional cost)
Along with Christmas trees, you should consider de-wiring your wreaths (and removing other non-recyclable parts) and recycling them as well.
Other items present challenges, but not insurmountable ones. For example, the “air pillows”—the air-filled plastic-film cushions that many vendors use to prevent the breakage of fragile items during delivery—may pile up in advance of Christmas day, as you empty deliveries for repackaging as gifts. If you don’t want them hanging around until January 5, you have an alternative. You can puncture the bags to deflate them first and then, as with other plastic-film products, bring them to the collection bins at retailers like Shaw’s and Whole Foods. Don’t put them in your curbside bin.
Packing peanuts will not be accepted at the DPW Yard, and they present a little more challenge (and not just in fighting static electricity and getting them off your fingers and clothes). The good news is that packing peanuts can be brought back to local UPS stores, like the one on Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington (maybe save that drop-off as a side trip to the Burlington Mall). According to the phone app iRecycle, the Burlington UPS store accepts clean foam packaging of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Boxes and other packaging materials are welcome as well. Other local UPS stores—but not all—accept packing peanuts. Call ahead for information.
Most gift wrapping, cards, and envelopes—including shiny paper and heavy cardstock—can be recycled, but not all of it. Wrapping and cards with glitter, foil, felt cutouts, metal charms, and ribbon count as trash, unfortunately.
With this guidance in hand, you should be able to properly dispose of most of the packing and other materials that are accumulating in your home during this season. May your holidays be full of joy—and environmentally friendly.
George Stubbs is co-chair of the Melrose Recycling Committee