Reduce Waste This Holiday Season

Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling has shared the following tips to reduce waste this holiday season! Visit to sign up for organics recycling, check what’s accepted for recycling and organics collection, and check the what to do list if you’re stumped on how to safely dispose of or recycle an item.

Recycle Smart - no holiday lights or cords in recycling carts

As you start dusting off holiday decorations from storage and begin to transform your home, workers cutting 'tanglers' off of recycling facility equipmentremember to keep “tanglers” like holiday lights, electrical cords, and hoses out of your recycling cart. Similar to plastic bags, these items get wrapped around equipment at recycling sorting facilities. They have to shut down operations for two hours everyday so workers can climb into the machinery to remove tanglers by hand.

Do your part to protect the safety of recycling collection crews and sorting staff by not placing tanglers in your blue recycling cart. Instead, recycle unwanted cords and string lights at Hennepin County drop-off facilities or other holiday light recycling locations.

Tips to prevent wasted food this holiday season

holiday meal on a tableOver 40% of the food produced is wasted – losing all of the water, energy and other resources used to get the food to you. So this holiday season, make it delicious, nutritious and prevent wasted food with the best of what Minnesota’s harvest has to offer. While you enjoy the holidays and begin to prep your festivities, consider these food saving, waste preventing tips.

  • Plan your meals ahead of time. Know what meals you want to make and how many people you’re feeding. Calculate the serving size needed using a food calculator online and don’t overestimate portion sizes. When planning meals, visit Minnesota Grown to familiarize yourself with local in-season foods and where you can get them. Implement in-season produce such as, apples, parsnips, squashes, potatoes, cauliflower, and pumpkins.

  • Make a shopping list. Make a list of ingredients and quantities you need before going to the grocery store to avoid impulse buying and over purchasing. Don’t forget to shop your own pantry, fridge, and freezer first to avoid repeat buys.

  • Store food like a pro. Check out for storage tips to keep your produce longer. For example, parsnips can last up to 4 weeks in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

  • Eat your leftovers. You can find creative recipes on to use up the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers and avoid seemingly endless, boring turkey sandwiches.

  • Try new recipes to use up all your food. Search online for recipes to use up this season’s best. Try “taffy apple pizza” to use up those wrinkly apples, “cauliflower rice” for a twist on the classic grain, and “butternut squash curry” for a flavorful take on the gourd.

Low waste decorations

Decorations help make the holidays feel festive. Whether it’s the bright lights, greenery, or figurines, consider these festive low-waste eco-friendly decorations this holiday season.

Consider the costs and uses of natural vs artificial greenery. The debate between whether natural or artificial holiday greenery is better for the environment is ongoing. When considering what to decorate with this year, think about how often the artificial holiday tree or greenery will be used. Reuse is essential to protecting natural resources, but plastic decorations accrue a lot of environmental impact from processing of materials, to manufacturing and distribution. If buying used, shop your local thrift store first – they often have holiday trees available. If you don’t foresee reusing the same artificial holiday greenery for a long time, going natural might be better for the environment.

holiday treeAnd if buying live greenery or a live tree remember, buy local and watch out for invasive insects like the eastern hemlock scale. These insects travel on greenery and trees brought in from out of Minnesota and can harm our natural plants. If you believe your greenery or tree may be infested with an invasive insect, contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Arrest the Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 or MDA’s website for more information.

make your own holiday decorationsConsider making your own décor. This can be a fun activity for the family to do together and can be easily done over a video call to spread festive cheer with loved ones from anywhere. Edible wreaths are a great craft consisting of dried orange slices, cranberries and popcorn which can be enjoyed by the birds when the holidays are over. Try creating beautiful table centerpieces from gourds, pinecones and other natural items.

Shop secondhand. If you’re looking for the perfect nutcracker, string of lights, or a candleholder consider shopping used first. Buying used not only gives loved items a new life, it reduces environmental impacts from making new and disposing of unwanted items. Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse campaign offers advice and tricks to shopping secondhand.

Avoid disposables. Single-use items like plates, plastic table-covers and utensils may seem nice to add festive flare to the holiday table, however, will be thrown away as garbage. Consider wasting less and using reusable alternatives that last longer and keep items out of the trash as much as possible.

Reduce waste when giving gifts

recycling holiday wreathBuy or make meaningful gifts. Don’t buy for the sake of it. If there was no sincere need or desire for an item prior to Black Friday, then a really good sale will not suddenly fulfill a role. Take your time when deciding a gift for your loved ones. The more thought and creativity put into selecting a gift makes it all the more meaningful. Consider these low-waste gift options below for those on your list:

  • Buy a Minnesota state parks permit for friends/family who love the outdoors.
  • Sponsor a meal for a busy friend.
  • Teach a skill over video call (dancing, knitting, etc.) for loved ones you can’t see in person.
  • Compile a cookbook of family recipes for the home chef.
  • Start a favorite book exchange with the avid reader.
  • Pass on your sewing machine or instrument for the novice creator.

Buy for longevity and durability. When you shop, think of it as a long-term commitment and buy products that are made to last a long time. Sometimes these products may cost a little more, but quality items can often be repaired and reduce the frequent rebuying (and associated costs) of items that are not built to last. This prevents fad-shopping that leads to quick-changing attention spans and quick waste generation.

Get creative with gift wrap

homemade gift wrap - painted newspaperLook for low-waste gift wrap ideas like newspaper (the comics section is particularly fun), old maps or calendars, or plain paper bags or boxes that you decorate yourself. Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse website has other great low-waste gift wrap ideas.

If purchasing gift wrap, look for wrapping paper that is recyclable and made from recycled paper and does not contain glitter, foil, reflective areas or velvet. These types of wrapping paper cannot be recycled or composted and should be put in the garbage. See below for other reminders on how to dispose of common holiday items

Holiday recycling list

Sign up for Recycling Reminder emails

We encourage you to sign up for our Recycling Reminder emails. By signing up you’ll receive an example Recycling Reminder emailemail every other week (like this one) that includes:

  • Holiday collection delay notices
  • Seasonal service reminders like the start and end of yard waste collection
  • Tips and tricks to reduce waste, recycle and compost more
  • Notifications of upcoming waste reduction, reuse, and recycling events
  • Fun facts about what happens to your garbage, recycling, organics recycling, etc.

Sign up by finding your recycling day, and clicking “Sign up for Recycling Reminders”.