The day after Christmas, two 25-foot, iron-sided, green recycling bins at the Waste Management recycling facility on Camage Avenue overflowed with sheets of cardboard, wrapping paper and discarded toy packaging.
A steady procession of vehicles pulled alongside the 6-foot walls of waste, with the occupants heaving their trash up above their heads and into the bins.
Even by midday, the containers were beginning to overflow beyond the brim.
John Williams, 58, of Sonora, owner of Mountain Home Gifts, pitched a stack of broken-down cardboard boxes into the mountain of debris.
“I just assume if I’m going to recycle, take it directly to the place to do it,” he said.
The unavoidable increase in his residential and business trash was “frustrating,” he said, but was augmented even more so by the fact that he purchased most of his Christmas gifts online this year.
Each individual item came its own box and, from there, the flaps needed to be folded outward, and the entire structure collapsed, he said.
This was his third trip to the facility in two weeks, he added, tossing a garbage bag filled with Christmas wrapping paper into the bin.
“I feel kind of shameful about the amount of cardboard I throw away,” Williams said. “But I always flatten them out.”
And though many Christmas participants maintain a year-long effort to reduce their refuse, the increase in trash was symptomatic of the holiday season, said Waste Management Route Manager Ray West, of Valley Springs.
“There’s always an increase around any holiday, especially Christmas,” he said.
West’s duties, to determine where exactly the trucks go along their prescribed routes, includes an understanding of the significant increases in trash and recyclables discarded during the holidays.
Garbage weight and volume specifications were rigid values, he explained, and an increase in trash requires additional employee trips returning to the Waste Management facility to jettison their loads.
“We have to do that more for the next couple of weeks that we deal with the Christmas trash,” he said.
A typical residential trucks holds about 10 tons of garbage, he said.
The Christmas and New Years holidays, since they both occur on Monday, will also postpone standard pickups in neighborhoods by a single day, he said. Waste Management employees will be working on Saturday, Dec. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 6, to accommodate the off-day, he added, with overtime paid to workers dealing with the garbage influx.
In order to prepare for the trash increase, West said, Waste Management officers have to anticipate purchasing trends so that adequate space is allocated for certain types of garbage.
This year, cardboard beverage containers and online delivery boxes have made up most of the residential refuse, he said.
West added that the best thing a homeowner can do to assist Waste Management employees is to condense trash in containers by breaking them down as much as possible.
“They get more in their cans, it’s easier for us to pick up,” he said.
Additionally, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office issued a warning to homeowners that the improper disposal of gift boxes and packaging can be an invitation to burglary.
In a press release, the Sheriff’s Office stated that potential burglars can identify “big ticket items advertised in your recycling bin” such as TV boxes, game console boxes and jewelry boxes.
The Sheriff’s Office also recommends breaking down the boxes so they cannot be recognized by passersby, or waiting to dispose of them in the recycling bin until a person’s specific pick-up day.
But West also cautions residents from forcing the containers too tightly with debris, noting that very often Waste Management employees had difficulty removing packed trash from containers.
The Christmas and holiday season was just like any other time of the year in terms of the content of trash, he said, but, inevitably, there was just more of it.
“You see weird stuff in the trash all year long,” he said.
Real, non-flocked Christmas trees can also be recycled and ground into mulch at local waste facilities.
The Earth Resource Facility on Camage Avenue will accept tree drop-offs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and the Groveland Transfer Station on Merrell Road will accept trees from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Tinsel, decorations and nails should be removed from the trees before recycling.
Trees dropped at the facilities will be ground into mulch and taken to a co-generation plant to be burned to generate electricity, used as an additive for compost, as mulch for local farms and ranches, or offered for sale at the Earth Resource Facility.
Those who drop trees off at the facilities in January can receive a free load of mulch.
The University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will conduct a Polystyrene Collection Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 13 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Waste Management site on Microtronics Way off of Camage Road in East Sonora.
Only No. 6 polystyrene will be accepted, including foam packaging, insulation and styrofoam products. Items should be clean of food or organic waste with tape, tags and labels removed.