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Gifts 'round the tree lead to overflowing recycling bins

Posted December 24, 2014

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— After the presents have been opened on Christmas, the boxes and wrapping paper move from the center of the holiday celebration to the recycling bin.

Last year, Durham's Solid Waste Management Department handled 1,466 tons of recyclables in December, a 30 percent increase from the average amount handled from September through November.

"People got their Christmas gifts coming in and opening boxes, and it just accumulates," said David Lynch, who drives a recycling collection truck for the city.

Robert Williams, assistant director of Solid Waste Management, said residents sometimes get confused about what to do with their excess recycling during the holidays.

"One thing we advise them not to do is put it in the trash," Williams said. "We advise them, if they do have overflow, is pack it in recyclable box or recyclable container, set it on top of their recycling bin or, if not, set it close to it, and our drivers will recognize that and collect that overflow."

Foam packing material is one item that needs to go in the trash because there is no market for it as a recyclable, he said.

Recycling collectors who find residents putting recyclables such as cardboard, paper or glass in the trash will leave behind a yellow door hanger as a warning.

"The first thing we want to do is educate the customer," Williams said.

Residents who ignore the warnings could face a $50 fine, which is tacked on to their water bill. Williams said almost everyone complies after getting an initial citation.

Other rules of holiday recycling:

  • Christmas trees can be taken to Durham County Stadium, at 750 Stadium Drive, off North Duke Street, on Jan. 15 to have them ground up.
  • Cooking grease can be recycled at the city's household waste facility, at 2115 Club Blvd.

Michael Rice got a head start on the process, doing much of his shopping online and offloading the stack of boxes on to Lynch on Tuesday.

"I pretty much do all my shopping on Amazon, so (there is) lots of cardboard," Rice said.

Solid Waste Management is upgrading its transfer station to accept both trash and recyclables. The $1 million project is slated to be done by next September.

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