Reduce, Reuse, Recycle This Holiday Season

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering tips to help families save money, reduce waste and keep recycling and trash workers safe during upcoming holidays.

“We know recycling can be confusing,” said Jennifer Semrau, DNR Waste Diversion and Recycling Coordinator. “But there are some basic tips people can use to make tackling holiday waste less overwhelming. Knowing the right thing to do with things like batteries and also light strings can prevent damage to recycling facilities and keep workers safe.”

What Should Go In Your Recycling Bin

Many items can be recycled anywhere in Wisconsin. These items, which the state bans from landfills, include:

  • Cardboard
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Office paper
  • Plastic #1 and #2 containers
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel (tin) cans
  • Glass bottles and jars

Wrapping paper that can be torn and doesn’t have any glitter, foil or other adornments can be recycled in the majority of programs in Wisconsin.

Be sure the items are empty of any liquids and excess gunk, but you don’t need to wash them with soap or put them through the dishwasher. For cans or bottles going into a curbside recycling cart or container, don’t crush or flatten them. This makes it harder for equipment at recycling facilities to recognize as well as properly sort things like aluminum cans.

What Should Not Go In Your Recycling Bin

Some items can cause serious problems at recycling facilities that aren’t designed to handle them, including a risk of fire and worker injury. Many of these can be recycled at drop-off sites but should not go in curbside recycling bins or carts. These include:

  • Tissue paper
  • Holiday light strings, cords and other “tanglers”
  • Plastic bags, plastic film and wrap
  • Batteries and electronics

For more information about what can and can’t be recycled, visit the DNR’s What to Recycle in Wisconsin webpage.

Save Money With Food Waste Prevention Tips

A 2020 study conducted by Penn State estimated households lose $1,866 a year on food that’s thrown out.

Here are some tips to reduce and prevent food waste at home:

  • Understand date labels and when food items are actually unsafe. Date labels are NOT regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other federal agency. Manufacturers apply date labels at their own discretion, with the exception of infant formula products. The FDA advises consumers to examine foods to determine if the quality is sufficient for use. Relying on your eyes as well as an old-fashioned sniff test can be a better indicator of the suitability of food for your use and could help you avoid disposing of healthy and safe food.
  • Shop with a plan and prepare for gatherings. Purchasing more food than what is needed often leads to more food waste. You can reduce this problem by taking inventory of what you already have, planning meals and making detailed shopping lists.
  • Store food to extend its life. Storing food in the best manner for that food type can go a long way to reducing food waste and also saving the time as well as money associated with additional grocery store runs. Save the Food’s Store It guide is an excellent tool for learning the detailed recommendations for food items you buy the most or have the most challenging time keeping fresh.

For more details and additional tips, visit the DNR’s Reducing Food Waste at Home webpage.