Public Info

Five Easy Ways to Reduce Waste This Holiday Season

wrapped gifts stacked on top of each otherUnion County, NJ – As the New Jersey “bag ban” approaches, Union County residents can prepare in advance by taking a few simple steps to cut down on single-use bags and other types of waste. Taking those steps during the holiday season can make a real difference. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the waste generated by American households jumps 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

The new state law banning single-use bags will take effect in May. The law aims to reduce the waste of resources in shopping bags and other single-use items.

“As we enjoy the festivities of the season, we can also take a few easy steps to reduce waste. It’s a simple way for all Union County residents to support environmental conservation, by starting at home,” said Union County Commission Chairman Alexander Mirabella.

The additional waste caused by holiday season activity results in up to 25 million extra tons of trash either heading to landfills or burned in incinerators each year.

Here are five easy ways to reduce the holiday season waste:

Avoid excess packaging while shopping:  By bringing your own reusable bag to stores while shopping for presents, you can avoid collecting single-use plastic bags, which often end up in the garbage can after one or two uses. For online purchases, some retailers provide the option to have your order shipped in fewer boxes. That reduces unnecessary packaging and also lowers the overall carbon footprint of the purchase related to transportation.

Shop selectively: Consider quality over quantity when giving gifts.  Quality doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive, but rather more thoughtful, more useful, more durable, and more sustainable.  For example, theatre tickets and other experiences make great gifts and can result in zero waste.  When purchasing items to gift, opt for those made of recycled or sustainable materials when possible.  Shop for eco-friendly gifts at one of Union County’s many local businesses to support the local economy, too.

Save on gift wrap:  Most wrapping paper and gift boxes are used once and thrown in the trash.  Instead, gifts can be wrapped inside other gifts, such as scarves, baskets, blankets, reusable tote bags, or decorative tins.  Decorating and re-using shipping boxes is another option.

Recycle the recyclables:  With so much shopping online, boxes filled with packing materials are a common sight on many doorsteps.  Fortunately, much of it can be recycled.  Cardboard and paper should be put in the curbside recycling bin, as long as it’s clean and dry.  Nine municipalities in Union County also collect block-type Styrofoam packing foam (check for a list of participating towns).  Clean, dry plastic bags can be recycled at your local grocery store.  Plastic envelopes used for shipping and bubble wrap are not recyclable, but they can be re-used. Save some for re-use and put the rest in household trash.

Find new homes for old items:  Discarding old items to make room for the new is often part of the holiday ritual.  Consider ways to give them a new life through donations to a local second-hand store or non-profit, re-selling them online, or offering them as giveaways through “no-buy” or “free-cycle” groups. Non-working electronic items can be recycled (visit for information on electronics recycling in your town).

The free Recycle Coach mobile app provides a handy way to find out what items are recyclable in Union County. The app also provides up to date information on both countywide and Union local recycling programs in Union County.

For more information, upcoming dates and directions to all Union County recycling programs and locations, visit the Bureau of Recycling and Planning website at or call the Union County Recycling Hotline at 908-654-9889.

Quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities are available at The Green Connection,

For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at

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