No Winter Waste: Where to Recycle Your Holiday Items

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In the aftermath of your holiday extravaganza, what about all the stuff left behind? We’re talking packaging and boxes and bows and broken light strings that too often become immediate landfill once January hits. Before you toss any of it check out these organizations around the Bay Area (and beyond) that help families be more green after the holidays.

ArtSuppliesTrash into Treasure

The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse
is an ecological treasure trove of inexpensive art supplies for education and creative household use.  The store was founded by two Oakland public school teachers and is 4,500 awesome square feet of reused materials.  They accept a variety of donation materials year round and holiday wise, will accept paper bags (think of all the shopping you did), corks (pop all the champagne you need to on New Year’s), and holiday gear (decor, ornaments, lights, craft supplies, ribbons, and bows).  Call ahead for donation pre-approval to be sure your materials will be accepted.

4695 Telegraph Ave
Oakland 94609

Raft Bay Area gives creative ideas, affordable project materials, mentoring, and professional development to educators.  You can donate normally discarded odds and ends to their learning centers, which turn into creative inspiration for young ones.  Holiday items like mini Christmas tree lights and packaging materials like collapsible boxes and decorative/gift boxes can be donated and dropped off at their their San Jose location.  Be sure to check their website to see what’s considered suitable for donation and for student use.

1355 Ridder Park Drive
San Jose 95131

Waste to Waves

Did your family score with any big ticket items?  Computers and electronics and sixty inch televisions—all packed tightly in thick walls of polystyrene packaging foam (a.k.a. styrofoam)?  Most cities don’t allow styrofoam recycling but fortunately, the Northern California organization Waste to Waves accepts clean, white, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam—the same stuff used inside of EPS/epoxy surfboards—and they recycle the material into new surfboard blanks.  They have drop off locations throughout Northern and Southern California (including our faves Aqua Surf Shop in San Francisco and Proof Lab in Mill Valley), so you can put this normally discarded material to good use


Lights Needn’t be Landfill

If you’re not sure what do with all of the holiday lights that helped you amp up the holiday cheer on your street (not to mention amping up your electric bill), Bay Area’s Green Citizen has multiple drop off “Eco-Center” locations including in San Francisco, Berkeley, Burlingame, Mountain View, and San Jose that accept Christmas lights.

590 Howard Street
San Francisco 94103

Local ACE Hardware stores across the country are also collecting broken holiday light strings for recycling through their Lights for Life program.  The broken light strands are sold to recyclers for the copper they contain to help with financial assistance for families of children with cancer.


Old Greetings Become New

The St. Jude’s Ranch for Children recycled card program takes your old holiday (and all-occasion) greeting cards to create new ones, which are sold to support programs for abused, neglected and homeless children, young adults, and families.

Mail your donations to:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

Share your tips on where to recycle holiday goods in the comment section below. 

–Mae Respicio

Photo credit: Image 1 courtesy Jessica “The Hun” Reeder via Creative Commons Flickr; image 2 courtesy Johan via Creative Commons Flickr; image 3 courtesy Susan Sharpless Smith via Creative Commons Flickr.

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