Update: MCAG offers holiday recycling tips for county residents

The Merced County Association of Governments issued holiday recycling tips from its recycling education specialist.

Gift wrap All wrapping paper (except metallic), gift tissue paper, gift bags and flattened boxes can be placed in the curbside recycling can or dropped off for free to either of the two county landfills in Merced and Los Banos. Ribbon can be kept for use in future presents. Otherwise, it should be thrown away to avoid causing damage to recycling machinery.

Packaging MaterialBubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts can be kept for other packaging occasions or donated to shipping businesses, such as the UPS Store. If thrown away, place them in the garbage can. Shredded paper can be used as packaging for fragile gifts. If recycled, place in a paper bag before putting it into the curbside recycling can.

ElectronicsThe holidays usually bring discount prices on new electronics. The old ones can be taken to the electronic drop-off centers, located in front of the Billy Wright Landfill (17173 S. Billy Wright Road, Los Banos) and at the Merced County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility (6049 N. State Highway 59, Merced). If electronics still work and are in good shape, donate them to a charity or local school. Don’t throw old electronics away, as they contain hazardous materials, such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which are harmful to humans and can leach into underground water sources. For a list of places that recycle electronics, please visit www.mercedrecycles.com.

Mobile phonesOld mobile phones can be turned into AT&T at the Merced Mall, Best Buy, Goodwill, Staples, Wal-Mart or the Merced County HHW Facility. Mobile phones that still have their charger can be donated to the Area Agency on Aging (209) 385-7550). These phones are given to seniors to allow them to make emergency 911 calls.

BatteriesTake all old household batteries to the Merced County HHW Facility. There is no charge for dropping them off. This facility is located in front of the Highway 59 landfill. If the batteries are rechargeable, take them to any Radio Shack. Best Buy and Target accept NiCad batteries (in toys and watches). Lowe’s accepts rechargeable ones from items such as power tools. There are also mail-back programs where companies provide boxes or pails for battery and portable electronics collection. Once the container is full, just seal and mail it back to the companies for recycling. Some companies that have mail-back programs are The Big Green Box (www.biggreenbox.com) and Battery Solutions (www.batteryrecycling.com).

Compact-fluorescent light bulbsIn case any of those energy-efficient lights have finally ran their course, Home Depot accepts dead, unbroken compact-fluorescent lights (CFLs) at the customer returns desk. These lights are energy-efficient and last for years, but contain small amounts of mercury, which makes them hazardous waste. CFLs need to be placed in a plastic bag and then deposited in the orange collection bins by the Home Depot returns desk. Merced County HHW accepts CFLs as well.

Christmas lightsReplacing your old incandescent strand of Christmas lights with the LED versions, or just trying to recycle strands that no longer work? The following Web sites have information about mail-in recycling programs: Christmas Light Source (www.christmas-light-source.com) under the Christmas Lights Recycling Program page, Environmental Lights, on the bottom of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, at http://www.environmentallights.com/faqs/, and Holiday LEDs (www.holidayleds.com) at the bottom under Free Light Recycling.

Christmas treesFirst, remove the tree stand, nails, metal spikes, lights, ornaments and as much tinsel as possible. Next, if you have a green waste container (Atwater, Dos Palos, Los Banos, Merced or county of Merced), cut the tree into 4-foot sections and place them into the container. The tree pieces may not excessively stick out. Flocked trees are not accepted in the green waste cans and need to be placed in the garbage can.

Gustine residents may place trees in front of their houses (but not in the alleys) on usual garbage pickup days the first two weeks after Christmas. Trees need to be free of lights, ornaments and metal stands; wood stands may remain attached. All trees must be a minimum of six feet from an obstruction, including cars, garbage cans and miscellaneous debris.

Dos Palos and Livingston residents should contact their city’s public works department to ask about their local tree pickup program.

For more information, go to the MCAG recycling Web site at www.MercedRecycles.com or call the MCAG recycling specialist at (209) 723-3153 ext. 315.