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That’s a wrap – and a waste

For many people, Christmas is the biggest day of the year.

For those who take care of our garbage and recycling, though, the biggest day of the year is the day after Christmas.

“It is in volume, but not in tonnage,” said Roger Saterfiel, director of Kootenai County’s solid waste system. “You’ve got all these cardboard boxes, the wrapping, the bubbles – all that stuff. There’s a lot of it that doesn’t weigh very much.”

There’s also a lot of it that can be recycled, though it often isn’t. Monica Bramble, acting director of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, said now is a good time for people to consider reusing holiday materials.

She said cards can be cut up and used as gift tags or postcards. Wrapping paper – which isn’t recycled around here – can often be used again, especially if the wrapper used string rather than tape to hold it together.

“There’s a point where it’s not reusable,” she said. “But the bows and ribbons – they can be used many times.”

According to one estimate, Americans toss out an extra million tons of garbage each week between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That includes a lot of stuff you might expect, from gift wrap to big boxes. It also includes other holiday casualties – sometimes when the new sweater is opened on Christmas morning, an old sweater goes out the next day.

“Don’t just throw them away,” Bramble said. “If they’re still in good condition, they can be donated to a number of local charities.”

Sometimes, people inadvertently throw out more than they intended. Saterfiel said it’s not uncommon for gifts to get accidentally tossed out. He recalled one instance several years ago when a worker at a transfer station found a $12,000 ring that had been accidentally thrown out – an amazing feat, considering it was in about 8 tons of trash.

Bramble said she hopes there’s a community interest in reducing how much garbage we produce.

“We’d make a strong plea for everyone to make a New Year’s resolution to cut their waste in 2007,” she said.