Handling the holiday aftermath responsibly

By Alise Certa

Special to the Observer

Once the presents have been unwrapped, the food has been eaten, the decorations have been taken down and life slowly starts returning to normal, the holiday season inevitably leaves us with a lot of … stuff.

Here is your guide to responsibly shedding all that holiday waste in the most eco-friendly and affordable way.

Compost Christmas trees

Bring your tree to a Chittenden Solid Waste District Drop-Off Center to be turned into wood chips and/or compost. The Williston, Essex and Milton drop-off centers accept trees up to 8 feet high. 

You can also bring your tree to the McNeil Wood & Yard Waste Depot in Burlington to be used as fuel to produce electricity. Remove all ornaments, tinsel and other decorations before bringing your tree to any facility.

The Williston Scout troop is offering curbside Christmas tree pickup for composting on Jan. 8 in many Williston neighborhoods. For more information, contact Brent at 310-2931.

Re-use, recycle wrapping paper and packaging

Most wrapping paper is accepted for recycling in your regular blue recycling bin.

If wrapping paper has any type of foil, Mylar or plastic coating, it belongs in the trash. You can tell if your wrapping paper is coated with any of these by pinching the edge of the paper and pulling it apart slightly. If you see a plastic or foil layer appear, then it’s trash.

Remove ribbons and bows for re-use, and recycle the wrapping paper along with other mixed paper. Tape is OK to leave on.

For cardboard, flatten it and place it in your blue bin with the rest of your curbside recycling, or bring it to a CSWD Drop-Off Center. Cut pieces to less than 4 feet per side.

Plastic packaging can go in the recycling bin if it’s rigid and is larger than 2 inches. Remove paper inserts and recycle them separately. 

Styrofoam of any kind — including packing peanuts — is not recyclable in Chittenden County. A number of local shipping and packaging businesses will take bubble wrap and packing peanuts for re-use. Otherwise, all filmy plastic and Styrofoam belong in the trash.

Decorative string lights

If your holiday lights burn out, or you’re replacing them with newer, energy-efficient LEDs, bring them to a CSWD Drop-Off Center in Essex, Milton, South Burlington or Williston and drop them in the scrap metal bin for recycling at no charge.

If your string has larger, old-fashioned bulbs, remove the bulbs before recycling the rest of the string in the scrap metal bin. You can throw the bulbs away with your regular trash.

Bring batteries of all types to any CSWD Drop-Off Center (except Burlington) for special battery recycling at no charge (quantity limits apply to certain battery types). Find more battery recycling options at Better yet, consider buying rechargeable batteries and a charger to reduce your overall energy footprint. Some rechargeable batteries can be reused hundreds of times before they stop holding a charge.

Old clothes, furniture, toys, etc.

Dozens of local organizations accept unwanted clothes, furniture and toys that are still in good shape — visit for a list. There are also local nonprofits that take almost anything, from automotive parts to clothing, books to computers, and toys to dishwashers. Call or check their websites first to make sure they will accept your item. 

Alise Certa is the communications manager at the Chittenden Solid Waste District.

Comment here