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Campaign urges Valley residents to cut down on holiday garbage

PHOENIX - The feasts, shopping and gifts that make the holiday season special also yield a tremendous amount of garbage destined for municipal landfills.

The surge in disposable dinnerware, greeting cards, gift wrap, foam packing, cardboard and plastic bags used at this time of year prompted Think Before You Shop, a public-awareness campaign organized by the Maricopa Association of Governments.

Produced with MAG's Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Valleywide Recycling Partnership, the campaign is built around six videos providing tips for reducing holiday trash.

Julie Hoffman, MAG's environmental planning program manager, said the videos complement what Valley communities already do to discourage waste and encourage recycling.

"A lot of the cities receive phone calls on recycling, so we want to put some videos out there to encourage people to think before you shop, to provide some tips on ways that can reduce, reuse and recycle during the holiday season," she said.

Americans produce 25 percent more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day than during the rest of the year - about 1 million extra tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"That's an amazing amount of waste in just a short period of time if you think about the overall impact," said Kristen Osgood, project manager at Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability.

"A lot of times people get caught up in the excitement and the business of the season and are not conscious of how much waste has been produced," she said.

The 30-second videos, released on Nov. 15, America Recycles Day, provide tips on dealing with disposable dinnerware, gift wrap, greeting cards, foam packing, cardboard and plastic bags.

The video on greeting cards suggests cutting them in half and using them as postcards or gift tags. One on gift wrap suggests using old posters, maps or calendars instead. Instead of using disposable dinnerware, a video suggests dishes and cloth napkins.

Marilyn Miles, a Mesa resident, said that while she recycles a lot the videos encouraged her to think before purchasing items.

"The one thing that made a difference for me is to think about what I buy before I buy, think about the packaging that it comes in, think about recycling and reusing it," she said.

Christine Smith, acting assistant public works director for Phoenix, said it was challenging to make the videos because recycling programs in each city are different.

"But we were able to identify these items as something that everybody in the Valley can participate in," said Smith, chairwoman of MAG's Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

She said the videos will not only help cut down on trash but save money for families.

"It was really important for us to try to get to our community and residents before the big shopping season starts," Smith said. "Hopefully the videos can help them rethink and reconsider some of their purchasing opportunities."

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