ECONOTES : Don't Let Your Gift Wrapping Go to Waste

While most people are thinking about gift wrapping this week, the California Integrated Waste Management Board is already worried about gift unwrapping. With visions of holiday trash mountains dancing in their heads, they're offering suggestions for keeping waste in check.

"We want people to be conscious of the waste they generate over the holidays," says board spokesman Eric Lamoureux. "We want to create a mind-set so people won't throw away the bows and the paper."

The board offers a list of ideas for wrapping a gift within a gift, such as putting garden tools into a planter, or a book into a canvas shopping sack, or games into a backpack.

For the paper that does get used, the agency has a list of ways to recycle. Samples: Before opening gifts, set aside a box for reusable ribbons, bows and decorations; flatten gift boxes and store them for next year and have a bag ready for whatever uncrumpled paper can be returned to service next Christmas. Since paper makes up 27% of California's waste, these simple actions can make a dent, Lamoureux says.

Nobody wants trees in landfills either. The City of Los Angeles will exchange a free bag of TOPGRO soil supplement for your post-Christmas tree. Take it to a compost drop-off point on the weekends of Dec. 30-31 or Jan. 6-7. For the nine drop-off locations call the Christmas tree recycling hotline, (800) 5-TREE-56.

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