Nfld. & Labrador

'Enough of the stuff': Meet the people pushing for a green Christmas with less waste

Sheila Ryan will only be accepting recycled, reused or homemade Christmas gifts this year.

MMSB has social media campaign to entice people to think about their waste

Wrapping paper is just one of many things that create excess waste at Christmas. (Metro Vancouver)

It's been a few years since Sheila Ryan became fed up with the hustle and bustle of the commercial Christmas rush. Now she's hoping for a holiday with less waste, less stress and less mess.

"Enough of the stuff," she said. "We're bombarded with stuff. Our kids are bombarded with stuff."

This year, Ryan will only be giving out gifts that are recycled, reused or homemade. She hopes to cut down on the amount of Christmas trash that inevitably ends up in the landfill.

It's a far cry from the way she prepared for the holidays her entire adult life. 

Sheila Ryan is done with buying Christmas gifts. From here on out, it's reused and recycled. (Ted Blades/CBC)

Ryan came from a household where her mother often made things by hand. But as Ryan got older and had children and grandchildren of her own, she did things differently.

She would brave the lineups and stress of the mall at Christmas to buy dozens of presents and meticulously wrap them in non-recyclable paper.

"I used to go overboard. I'm not doing it anymore. I'll never do it again," she said.

She's pledging to return to her mother's way of doing things, and she's not alone.

MMSB campaign to cut waste from Christmas

Dana Spurrell is making similar efforts in her house as Christmas Day draws closer.

As CEO of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board, recycling is top of mind for her career. She's also brought it home with her.

"It's opened my eyes being here," Spurrell told CBC Labrador Morning.

The MMSB has an advertising campaign this year, taking to social media in efforts to get people to think about their waste output this Christmas.

"The reason we're putting extra focus on it over the holidays is because as well all know, individuals tend to overconsume. From paper to food to packaging, it tends to be a time of excess."

The campaign aims to get people thinking about single-use plastics like cutlery, plates, shipping materials and wrapping paper.

The MMSB suggests buying local goods with less packaging, getting a natural tree and mulching it afterwards and using natural items for decorations like the good old days.

"We're just trying to get folks to really take a second and rethink your approach and rethink what you're buying. If I were to say one message it would be: rethink, rethink, rethink, reduce, reduce, reduce."

What to know about wrapping paper

One of the biggest sources of waste is wrapping paper.

Even if it is stamped as recyclable, it is likely not recyclable in Newfoundland and Labrador because of the dye.

"We have very strong colours at Christmas time. They're lovely but they can't be included with paper," said Janine Piller, waste diversion supervisor for the City of St. John's.

Plain brown packing paper, however, can be recycled. Piller recommends using it with a ribbon or bow to add a pop of colour.

Then, of course, reuse the accessories.

"Bows and ribbons can certainly be saved and reused for a long time."

Most wrapping paper has dye in it to make the paper green or red. Those dyes are a problem when it comes to recycling. (John Pike/CBC)

Christmas cards are also tricky when it comes to recycling. It all depends on the type of card and how decked out it is.

"We just don't want any bling because it just causes chaos for the person who is processing that material," Piller said.

City workers put in extra hours this time of year, making sure all the excess trash from Christmas Day ends up in its proper place — whether it's into the landfill or off to be recycled.

Ryan, Spurrell and Piller all hope their load gets a lot lighter this year and each year to come.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show, Labrador Morning and On The Go

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