Going green by recycling for holidays

Christmas trees in red recycling bins

By Brandon Hearn

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate more than 25% more trash compared to other times of the year.. With the large quantity of holiday cards, wrapping paper, trees, lights and ornaments in addition to all the packaging and boxes, it is no wonder that this is the most wasteful, albeit wonderful, time of year.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Johnson County Department of Health and Environment wants to wish you a “Happy Holidays” and show you a few ways that you can help the environment during the holidays and year-round.

Holiday Lights

You no longer need to throw away your broken holiday lights. Starting in December there will be several locations accepting holiday lights for recycling. The Overland Park Recycling Center will accept them in December and January. Westlake Ace Hardware locations will also accept lights, and the Mission Sustainability Commission will be collecting lights at the Sylvester Powell Community Center and Mack’s True Value Hardware, dates may vary. Find out more information at recyclespot.org.


Let’s keep Christmas trees out of the landfill. Natural trees are collected in several places around Johnson County and will find a second home as a fish habitat or mulch for a park. Overland Park will also be accepting natural trees for recycling at several locations from Dec. 26 through Jan. 9 from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. at several locations. Check with your city to find a convenient park to recycle your tree.

The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District will also offer drop off options usually between Dec. 26 to Jan. 31 at Big Bull Creek Park, Theatre in the Park parking lot at Shawnee Mission Park, the Heritage Park marina and the marina at Kill Creek Park. More information can be found online.

Ditch the Bag

Bagging your recyclables in plastic trash bags can result in your recyclables going to the landfill. Plastic bags and wraps are also not accepted in your curbside recycling. Why? Because these materials get caught in machinery at the recycling facility and lower the value of other recyclables.

Ensure that your recycling efforts don’t go to waste, by keeping plastic bags, product wrap, and other plastic wraps and films out of your recycle bin. For more info on how you can ditch the bag go to jocogov.org/recycling101.

Recycling/Sustainability Program

Johnson County Government offers a free consulting program that can help you start a recycling, waste reduction, or sustainability program. We will work with any business, school, church or senior living facility in Johnson County.

Compost food waste

Reduce your food waste in the new year by composting your food scraps and waste. Backyard composting is a wonderful option but doesn’t work for everyone.

There are three companies in Johnson County that will pick up your food waste from your house or business and take it away to be composted. The food waste is collected in five-gallon buckets and conveniently picked up from your house or apartment. These companies are: FoodCycle KCCompost Collective KC and KC Can Compost.

Recycling is important, but remember to reduce, reuse and then recycle to help our planet during the holiday season and all year long.

If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact me at 913-715-6936 or brandon.hearn@jocogov.org or follow us on Facebook at Johnson County Recycles.

Brandon Hearn is environmental health specialist at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.