Dealing with Holiday Detritus

Creative Commons License photo credit: JMacPherson

Most parents I know wage a constant battle against being overtaken by STUFF in their house. Admittedly, this is a first world problem.

Are you sometimes stumped at how to properly dispose of holiday detritus? Are your trash bins and/or recycling bins overflowing? Would you like to get a jump start on your January organizing? Are you trying to make room for holiday gifts?

If so, hopefully this information will help.

Of course, donate all you can to local charities. Many Austinites are in need this holiday season. Goodwill has several locations where you can easily hand donation items to volunteers while kids remain in the car (I have done this at the South Lamar store and the location near 183 and Burnet). For building/construction materials in good condition, you can see if Habitat Re-Store can use your items. You can try putting items which Goodwill cannot accept on Freecycle or Craigslist’s Free Stuff page.

When was the last time you re-read the list of what you can and can’t recycle? Here are the City of Austin’s recycling dos and don’ts:

What goes in the recycling cart?

  • Paper: (newspaper, office paper, junk mail, envelopes, wrapping paper)
  • Boxboard and cardboard: Corrugated cardboard and boxboard including:
    • cereal boxes
    • shoe boxes
    • most gift boxes
    • soda/beverage containers
    • most food packaging containers such as boxes of macaroni and cheese, rice, microwave meals.
  • Aluminum and metal cans: food cans (labels left on OK), soda cans
  • Glass: Jars and bottles
  • Plastic containers: # 1 through # 7, including yogurt and margarine tubs

What cannot be recycled in your cart?

  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam (cups, egg cartons, take-out containers)
  • Pizza boxes from take-out or delivery services
  • Advertisement

  • Yard waste/leaves (set out for yard trimmings pick up)
  • Food waste
  • Garbage (you may be charged for extra garbage if you put garbage in your recycling cart)
  • Helium tanks
  • Large metal items such as frying pans and metal pipes
  • Large plastic items (plastics that are gallon-sized or smaller are ok)
  • Wire coat hangers (recycle at your local dry cleaners)

After you have done the purging, made the trips to Goodwill and stuffed everything into the recycling bins, you (OK, at least me!) are left with the 70s light cover, a bagful of spent batteries, styrofoam, expired over the counter medicine, mini blinds, one of those really long flourescent lightbulbs and a bunch of plant containers purchased over the course of several years.

The City of Austin has a very handy website with the title “What Do I Do With…” When I find myself uttering these very words, often this is the first place I search. Here are some things I have learned about those difficult-to-dispose of items:

Bags, Plastic – I get the newspaper and get some produce bags, so I still find I need to recycle these from time to time. I just take them to the grocery store. Central Market, H.E.B., Randalls, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods collect and recycle plastic bags.

Batteries – These contain toxic materials that aren’t good for the landfill. I was bummed that Ikea can no longer dispose of these, but I have taken them to Radio Shack in the past. Depending on what kind of material they are, you can see guidelines for disposal here.

Computer parts – I took old computer parts to the Goodwill, but there are many other computer recyclers.

Over the counter medicine – I take these to Live Oak Pharmacy, close to downtown.

Paint – Residents can take household quantities of paint to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

Phone books – These can be recycled in the City of Austin’s single stream recycling carts.

Plant containers – These can go into the recycling bin, but I also found out that Barton Springs Nursery will re-use these if you bring them to the back of the property and place them in the bins next to their dumpsters.

Styrofoam – I used to take Styrofoam to Cycled Plastics for recycling, but they recently went out of business, so I just took a carload out to HDI Plastics, Inc. close to Ben White & Burleson, which can accept various types of plastics, including Styrofoam.

Toner & ink cartridges – I take these to my local library branch, but I have also seen a bin at Target for them.

Ecology Action downtown is another drop off option.

How do you win the battle against “stuff” in your household? Are there any items you just don’t know how to get rid of?

Written by: Nicole Basham

About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".

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