As we tear into the holidays and toss our wrapping paper and bows into the recycling bin, there are a few things to keep in mind, like: can you recycle broken lights from your Christmas tree? Or the cork from your New Year's Eve champagne?
For tips, we went to Kevin Roche, the CEO of EcoMaine, who says the way we recycle has gotten a little more complicated.
"A year ago we saw a huge imbalance in the market. China basically got out of the business of importing recyclable materials into their country; they were the largest importer in the world. That left too much supply and not enough demand. The value of the materials, particularly mixed paper, residential mixed paper, has been reduced to a negative level. We haven't seen that in the last 20 years. So it's been very difficult to find homes for some of this recyclable material. We are still recycling it, but it has a lot less value," explains Roche.
So what does that mean to the average consumer? Well, for those "wish-cyclers" as Roche lovingly refers to the people who toss everything into recycling and hope for the best; you're actually creating a lot of work for recycling facilities like EcoMaine.
"It's created a lot less tolerance for contamination in the bails that we export. So that's why we are asking the public to ask themselves, "which bin should I put it in?' because the more contamination they put in there, the harder it is for us to sort all of that contamination out."
So especially this time of year, pay attention to what you're tossing. Rope or strings of Christmas lights can tangle the machinery at recycling facilities, and shut things down.
If your wrapping paper is just paper material, toss it into recycling, but leave out the ribbons and bows. "We encourage people to reuse wrapping products, too," says Roche.
As for that cork from your wine or champagne, EcoMaine recommends tossing it into compost.
There is a helpful "Recyclopedia" on EcoMaine's website; for help with what to recycle, and what to toss, click here.