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How to recyle your holiday celebration

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate 25% more trash. Over Christmas alone, the average family will fill 5 extra trash bags. With the large quantity of packaging, cards, wrapping paper, trees, lights, and ornaments it is no wonder that this is the most wasteful, albeit wonderful, time of year.

But it doesn't have to be that way. From the Department of Health and Environment, here are a few things you can recycle and some ways to prevent generating extra waste in the first place.

Holiday Lights: You no longer have to throw away your broken and unusable holiday lights thanks to Southeast Enterprises, which recycled more than 60,000 pounds of holiday lights last year alone. Find the drop-off location closest to you. Some locations will accept lights through January 20, others have an earlier cut-off date.

Wrapping Paper: Each year we throw away enough paper to wrap 5,787 NFL football fields. Unfortunately most wrapping paper can't be recycled. Use a reusable bag, an old magazine, or newspaper instead. If you must buy wrapping paper, buy rolls made from recycled paper.

Packaging: The packaging surrounding toys, gadgets, and many other gifts is not just annoying to parents, it can be exceedingly wasteful. Oftentimes these materials are recyclable. All of the cardboard and a majority of the plastics can go in your recycle bin. Styrofoam, while not accepted for curbside recycling, can be recycled at some locations.

Trees - Real and Fake: Keep your Christmas tree out of the landfill. An artificial tree that it is no longer usable can be recycled as electronic waste at several locations in the area. Natural trees can be recycled in several places in around the county and will find a second home as a fish habitat or mulch for a park. Johnson County Park and Recreation operates collection sites at several parks from December 26 through January 31. Your city may also be recycling trees.