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How to Recycle Your Holiday Waste

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As long as we’re giving holiday gifts, how about giving a gift to Mother Earth? CalRecycle estimates that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, more than 1 million tons of additional waste is generated each week nationwide. In fact, 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out each year–enough to tie a bow around the Earth. is an excellent source of ideas. Recent articles talked about how to wrap packages without using plasticized tape (which is removed from paper during recycling and then landfilled) and how to have a less commercial Christmas. Earth 911 provides tips on Non-Material Holiday Gift Ideas, as well.

If you decorated with a live, cut Christmas tree, it can be chipped at home to make mulch. Mulch provides nutrients to the soil, controls weed growth and reduces evaporation during our hot summers. Or, during January, drop off your tree for free at the Earth Resource Facility in Sonora or the Groveland Transfer Station. For more information, see Tuolumne County’s holiday recycling web page at

Did you shop on-line this holiday season? Did your purchases arrive packed in white polystyrene foam? Hang onto that stuff because Master Gardeners are once again collecting “styrofoam” in February to keep it out of the landfill.

Styrofoam, a trade-marked Dow Chemical Company product is extruded polystyrene foam, usually blue, and used in construction. Colloquially, the term “styrofoam” is used world-wide to refer to packaging material that is usually white and is expanded polystyrene, not extruded.

Polystyrene collection days will be held Saturday, February 5, 9 am to 4 pm, and Sunday, February 6, 10 am to 2 pm. The drop-off site is located on Microtronics Way, near the exit to the Waste Management buy-back recycling center located on Camage Avenue in Sonora, California.

As in prior collections, we are accepting CLEAN, colored polystyrene food containers. Food containers MUST be washed! We are also accepting packing-grade polystyrene (used for shipping items such as electronics). Please remove tape, tags, labels, etc. from polystyrene before recycling. Also, please separate food-grade containers from packing-grade polystyrene before donating.

Packing peanuts are usually not polystyrene and Master Gardeners are unable to accept them. They may be taken to the UPS Store next to Safeway or to Pac-N-Copy in the Junction Shopping Center.

COVID-19 Protocols will be followed during the collection event. Vehicles line up in single file in a drive-through drop-off with traffic cones marking the area for unloading. Master Gardener volunteers will remove the polystyrene from your vehicle. Most clients will not have to get out of their cars.

If you aren’t able to participate in Polystyrene Collection Days, you can drop off polystyrene at the following two locations:

Dart Container Corporation, (209) 333-8088, 1400 E. Victor Road, in Lodi, accepts polystyrene 24 hours a day. Their drop-off bin is located close to Highway 12.

Foam Fabricators, (209) 523-7002, 301 9th Street, Building B, in Modesto, ( accepts expanded polystyrene Monday through Thursday 7am through 3 pm. They are also open Friday from 7 am to 1 pm. When you arrive at their facility, please call their phone number and someone will meet you at their gate to accept the expanded polystyrene.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County who chips her Christmas tree branches into mulch and recycles the trunk into firewood.

UCCE Central Sierra Master Gardeners can answer home gardening questions. Call 209-533-5912 in Tuolumne County, 209-754-2880 in Calaveras County or you can fill out our easy-to-use problem questionnaire here. Check out our website here. You can also find us on Facebook.