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For Immediate Release: Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Every day, Montgomery County residents can help protect the environment by reducing waste, reusing items, and recycling everything that can be recycled.  This is especially true during the upcoming holiday season which traditionally generates additional amounts of waste. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides the following tips this holiday season. By doing so, everyone helps to ensure cleaner land, air and water.


Unwanted Mail:

• In the weeks leading up to the holidays, most households receive larger quantities of advertisements, sale flyers and catalogs. Before placing unwanted mail into the mixed paper recycling bin or cart, residents should take a moment to remove their names from any mailing lists of companies they no longer wish to receive information from. Often, all that is needed is a call to a toll-free number provided in the mailing.

• Another way to help reduce the amount of unwanted mail received at any time of the year is to register on a “Do Not Mail” list with any of a number of organizations offering this type of service.  One service, Catalog Choice, can be accessed at  The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is another organization which provides a similar service. To register with DMA, visit  Or, download the form from that site, complete and mail it to: DMA Choice, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY  10512.  



• Plan your shopping to accomplish as many purchases as you need while limiting the number of trips you make.  Shop with a friend and carpool, or take public transportation.

• Take along reusable bags when shopping. This eliminates the need to pay for and use either paper or plastic shopping bags.

• Buy and give reusable bags as useful gifts; there are many unique types, sizes, materials and designs of reusable bags available.  Recipients can use them throughout the year.

• When buying gifts that will be mailed, select items that are easy to ship and don’t require much packaging.

• Shop for gifts at vintage shops, antique stores or estate sales – one person’s unwanted item is another person’s treasure.

• Look for gifts that are environmentally friendly and support our local economy, including items made with recycled content materials, or locally produced items.

•If you have either paper bags or plastic bags that can no longer be used, recycle them.  Recycle paper bags in the County’s recycling program, and place them into your mixed paper recycling bin or cart.  Take plastic bags back to local grocery or other retail stores on a return trip, and place them into the store’s plastic bag recycling bins. 



• Consider giving gifts that require minimal or no wrapping:  tickets to shows, concerts, and/or sporting events, gift certificates or gift cards.

• For oversized or bulky gift items such as bicycles, sports equipment, or artwork, simply tie a reusable ribbon or bow around them.

• Make the gift wrap a part of the gift, for example, put a plant in a wicker basket, cookies on a ceramic plate, gardening tools in a planter, or jewelry in decorative case.

• Wrap gifts in useful and durable wrapping, such as fabrics, scarves, or towels.

• Many gift boxes are attractive and don’t need wrapping. Add a reusable ribbon or bow.

• Gift bags are a great idea.  They save time and effort when wrapping gifts, and can also be used again and again.

• Wrap only the top of boxes, rather than the entire box.

• Sunday comics, magazines, older maps or brown paper decorated with stencils, glitter, and twine can be unique gift wraps.

• If you must purchase wrapping paper, look for ones made from recycled paper.

• Reuse wrapping paper – have scissors or letter openers handy when opening gifts so paper doesn’t get damaged when removing tape.

• Items that must be shipped or mailed can be wrapped in reused brown or decorative paper bags.

• Reuse packing cartons, cardboard boxes, and shipping materials such as plastic air pillows, shredded paper or newspaper and bubble wrap. Donate excess packaging materials to local mailing centers.

• If you have wrapping paper or cardboard boxes that can no longer be used, recycle them.  Be sure to put them in your mixed paper recycling bin or cart, and recycle them in the County’s recycling program.



• Send electronic event invitations, rather than paper ones.

• Make creative centerpieces and decorations out of natural items from your yard, such as flowers, sprigs, pinecones, leaves, branches, etc.

• Use durable, reusable dishes, glassware, flatware, table cloths and cloth napkins rather than disposable items.  Consider renting these items if needed.

• Avoid buying individually packaged beverages, and purchase food items in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging.

• Don’t throw out leftovers. Put them in reusable containers for guests to take home with them to enjoy later.

• Holiday cooking can generate many types of items such as bottles, jars, cans and containers that can be recycled in the County’s recycling program.  Before recycling them, consider whether any of them can be reused for storing leftovers.  Be sure to recycle all the rest in your commingled container recycling bin.


Christmas Tree Recycling:

• When the holidays are over, recycle cut Christmas trees and wreaths.  Christmas trees are given another use if they are composted or chipped for mulch.

• Remove the stand and all decorations – including lights, ornaments, and tinsel, and leave no metal attached to the tree.

• County residents of single-family homes and townhomes can recycle Christmas trees and wreaths at the curb on their regular recycling collection day. 

• Live Christmas tree branches and pine needles can also be recycled at home by placing them under trees and shrubs or adding them to a compost bin.

• Businesses and residents of apartments and condominiums should check with their property/business managers or representatives for specific instructions on recycling Christmas trees.


Holiday Light Recycling:

Holiday string lights are being replaced by more energy efficient and longer-lasting LED lights.  If you are replacing older holiday lights with newer LED lights this holiday season, consider recycling the old lights.

Do not place holiday lights into your blue recycling bin. These lights are not recyclable in Montgomery County’s recycling program.

• Instead, there are several retail locations and mail-in options available for residents to send their old or unwanted holiday lights for recycling.

• Recycle old or unwanted holiday lights by taking them to all Home Depot store locations in the County or Lowe’s in Gaithersburg.

• Visit our Visit our website at for a list of mail-in opportunities that accept holiday lights for recycling.


DEP is working to reduce waste and recycle 70 percent of the waste stream by 2020.  Please reduce the amount of waste you create, and recycle everything that is possible to recycle to ensure cleaner land, air and water. The County continues to have one of the highest waste diversion rates (the combination of recycling rate and source reduction activities) in Maryland, and our ongoing efforts to recycle by residents, employees and others is essential as the County strives to achieve this ambitious recycling goal.


For more information or questions about reducing waste and recycling at home or at work, visit or call Montgomery County's Customer Service Center at 311 (out-of-County: 240-777-0311, TTY: 301-251-4850).


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Release ID: 16-439
Media Contact: Judy Stiles 240-777-6507