Columns | Daily Chronicle

Kron: Recycling wrapping paper? Holiday best practices for reducing waste

Editor’s note: This is the December installment of a monthly column written by the city of DeKalb’s Citizens Environmental Commission that focuses on increased awareness of issues such as promoting projects and ordinance changes involved in recycling, reducing energy consumption, and planting native habitat.

As we enter the season of gifting for many cultures, we also increase our personal contribution to waste. That means online sales boxes, bags carried home from the mall, broken decorations, strings of holiday bulbs that no longer light;, and wrapping paper and bows.

As we try to become a more sustainable city, here are guidelines for DeKalb residents that conform with the requirements of our current city recycler, Lakeshore Recycling Services (LRS).

Are there shiny stripes or designs on your wrapping paper? Put it in the garbage. Only paper without foil is accepted, and no bows can be recycled.

Pyrex and other tempered glass from that wonderful casserole dish you accidentally broke? Not recyclable, and any other broken glass won’t be accepted, as well as dishware and ceramic bakeware.

But don’t forget to recycle all those empty aerosol whipped topping cans. When recycling aluminum baking trays, be sure to wash them first. Even clean aluminum foil can be recycled if it is pressed into a ball at least 2 inches in diameter.

Unfortunately, the boxes from heat-and-eat frozen food dishes that ease the work of holiday cooking cannot be recycled. These boxes are made of a mix of paper and plastic that makes them unacceptable. As LRS allows food scraps to be included with yard waste, all food, paper towels, napkins, and tissues from holidays that fall within the compost pick-up months are accepted, but no plates or cutlery, even if marked “compostable.”

But what does “accepted” mean? Why won’t a recycling company take everything you have carefully set aside as you try to be as ecologically sensitive as possible? Two factors come into play: If the machines process the material, and if it can be sold on the market.

Recycling companies are subject to supply and demand as well as quality. If a large percentage of non-recyclable items are found in a bale, the buyer won’t accept it, and the entire bale will be sent to the landfill. Plastic bags cannot be included, even to bundle other items. They clog the machinery and can cause breakdowns and delays. Use grocery store drop-off bins instead.

Do we have an even better alternative? Yes! Create less waste in the first place by using articles already in your home. That can include wrapping presents in newspaper or cloth, using reusable plates, bowls and cutlery, and saving leftover food in reusable containers.

We’re fortunate to have DeKalb Iron and Metal (DIMCO) in town to take holiday lights.

And as your gifts may include a wide array of electronics such as computers, tablets, and cell phones, note that both DIMCO and Armor Technologies accept these items, with the intent of keeping hazardous metals, such as lead and mercury, out of landfills. While LRS can make a scheduled visit to your home to pick up these electronics as well, DIMCO will give cash for personal computers based on their condition.

For more ideas and recycling information, visit the Citizens’ Environmental Commission at and the city of DeKalb Facebook page. For additional information, check out and

Have a wonderful, sustainable holiday!