What Edmontonians need to know about recycling Christmas trash

Devoured turkeys, dishevelled Christmas trees, mounds of tattered wrapping paper; Edmonton landfills are being inundated with holiday leftovers.

City landfills inundated with Christmas garbage, residents advised to recycle only the 'right stuff'

The Edmonton Waste Management Centre includes composting, recycling various materials including electronics, a biofuels section, a paper facility and a landfill. (City of Edmonton )

Devoured turkeys, dishevelled Christmas trees, mounds of tattered wrapping paper; Edmonton landfills are being inundated with holiday leftovers.

The city receives twice the amount of garbage in the weeks following Christmas Day than what is typically collected for the rest of January and February combined.

"After the holidays, we see just massive amounts of garbage coming to the waste management centre," said Erika Droessler, the education programs coordinator with the city's waste management branch. 

"There are some days where we can see upwards of a thousand tonnes of household garbage, and to put that in perspective, that's the weight of about seven blue whales."

About 50 per cent of that mountain of waste will be diverted from the landfill through recycling and composting, said Droessler.

Much of that is done at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, where organics, like old turkeys, are removed from the regular trash.

'Recycle the right stuff'

Anything placed in a blue bag by the curb is sent to a special recycled sorting facility where it is recycled, sold to market and made into new products.

But some items misplaced in the trash are impossible to recover, said Droessler.

"If recyclables like cardboard boxes are placed into the garbage, unfortunately they don't get recycled," said Droessler. "And that's because once they're mixed with garbage, especially things like leftover cranberry sauce and gravy, they get really dirty and it's really difficult to sell dirty items."

As for all that wrapping paper — as long it doesn't have foil — that can be recycled too.

Damaged ribbons and bows belong in the garbage. But if they survived the unwrapping process unscathed, Droessler suggests you stash them away for next year.

Some items, like long strings of unwanted Christmas lights, can cause major damage to city equipment. (City of Edmonton )
 Items that should
not go in a blue bag include Christmas lights and extension cords. They should instead be brought to an eco station. Putting them in garbage can cause big headaches for city workers. 

"There are a couple of things that, if you put into the recycling, are big no nos that can actually cause some major problems in a recycling sorting plant," said Droessler. "And that includes long stringy things like Christmas lights.

"Those can wrap around machines, cause jams and they can make it really hard for us to sort and recycle the right stuff."

For Christmas trees to be accepted for composting, all ornaments, tinsel, garlands and tree stands must be removed. 

Single-family households can place their unbagged tree next to their garbage. Apartment dwellers are asked to take their trees to a recycling depot or an eco station, where they can be disposed of free-of-charge. 

If you still don't know how to handle the mess left behind by your relatives, Droessler suggests you take the guesswork out of recycling by downloading the city's Waste Wise app at edmonton.ca/waste.