December Recycling Tips

By Bonita Davis, SE Resident and Master Recycler

“A year unlike any other” could actually be an understatement for 2020! The impact of the pandemic on our lives has been profound, as we now are challenged with rethinking our normal seasonal travel plans, family gatherings and holiday traditions.

Much has been shared about the stress holidays can bring upon us with shopping, overspending, too much rich food and packed schedules often leaving us feeling frazzled.

The pause and now freeze* may be the perfect opportunity to re-examine how we celebrate our holidays.

Let’s start with food. Gatherings of family and friends beyond people living in your home are being discouraged this year. Consider preparing only what will be consumed, or, perhaps view larger special meals as batch cooking and plan to freeze the leftovers.

According to Metro, Portlanders throw more food in the trash than anything else. Get help cutting waste by using Save the Food,, a planning tool to help you find the right portion size per guest by using their interactive GUEST-IMATOR to adjust recipes. You’ll find recipes, tips on storing leftovers and food waste prevention ideas.

In advance, use up what is in your freezer and take stock of what you already have in your cupboards. Compiling lists can help prevent duplication. Many more cost saving and practical tips can be found on

This is a critical time to support local restaurants by ordering take-out for a special holiday meal. Cut down on packaging waste by using your own plates, glasses, utensils and condiments at home. Minimize waste further by placing foodscraps in the green rollcart for composting.

Gift-giving is a special part of the season. Now is the time to check in with family and friends to agree on the plan for this year. Financial concerns, recent decluttering efforts and limits on gatherings prompt us to think outside the box.

First is that honest conversation with those in your gift exchange circle. If you are going to be exchanging gifts, safe bets are consumables, especially boxed and bottled, durable items, and gift cards.

Buying quality items locally-made from our shops here supports our business community and can reduce packaging excess and shipping impacts.

An online subscription to Chinook Book coupons might be a fun, flexible idea for giving that can be used all year. Participating businesses have been vetted for sustainability practices.

The Book includes hundreds of coupons for dining, entertainment, clothing/gifts, grocery, home and garden, travel, recreation and wellness. Go to or download the Chinook Book app and look for the Portland edition.

Perhaps you, or people on your list would prefer experiences to things. Passes to Oregon State Parks, The Oregon Zoo or museums can give recipients something to look forward to and help keep these treasured institutions afloat.

Many locals buy used goods as part of an environmental commitment to reduce waste, but is it OK to give used items as gifts? Yes. Giving pre-owned items is gaining in popularity.

If you’re on someone’s gift list, let them know you’d feel fine about receiving previously-owned merchandise and they may tell you they the feel the same way.

Antiques, jewelry, home décor, sports equipment, craft supplies, books, DVDs, basically anything you think your recipient would enjoy.

Reusing gift papers, ribbons and bows, boxes and packing materials saves resources and money. Get the family involved in making gift bags from scrap fabric or block printing paper bags. Scarves, bandanas, baskets and jars can also serve as gift wrap and can be used again.

Pinecones, pine sprigs and dried flowers make lovely gift package toppers and you can carry this nature theme throughout the house for table decorations, mantles and doorways.

How about a mini repair clinic for your ornaments and decorations before the tree goes up instead of purchasing new?

Whether you forego a tree altogether, decorate a houseplant, buy or rent a potted tree, cut down a tree or buy a reusable tree, it is important to enjoy and care for your choice. Finding a good spot to transplant your potted tree or carefully storing reusable tree so they will last for years will reduce the impact of having a tree.

After the holidays, remove lights, ornaments, tinsel, flocking, etc. and cut trees to fit in your green rollcart which can be hauled away to be composted at no additional charge. My hauler charges $5 to pick up a tree outside the rollcart on collection day.

If you live in a multi-family unit and do not have a green rollcart, consult your property manager for options and look for tree drop-off and pick-up events after Christmas.

Old string lights can go to an e-cycler or metal recycler. Find out where to donate or recycle holiday items by searching the Find-A-Recycler tool at or call the Metro Recycling Hotline at 503.234.3000.

When the 2020 holiday season concludes, you may find your household generated less waste than usual and that your holidays were just as enjoyable.

2020, truly a year unlike any other!

*Visit for current pause/freeze restrictions.

December Recycling Tips

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top