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A Note from Jane

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season, the time of year when Americans produce more garbage than any other time of the year. So how can we celebrate with less waste? You know the drill…
  • Refuse (say no to items you can do without)
  • Reduce (buy gifts your friends will really use and food that you will really eat)
  • Reuse (choose reusable shopping bags, washable serving ware, cloth gift bags and ribbons)
  • Recycle (but do it right!)
The City of Columbia and Lexington County are sharing their Holiday Recycling Guides pictured above.

Wishing you all a green, clean holiday season!

Jane Hiller
Education Director, Sonoco Recycling

Recycling Tips

Recycling Cardboard Boxes 

As more and more people shop online, more cardboard boxes end up in our homes. Please take the time to empty, flatten and recycle those boxes so we can keep them out of landfills and turn them back into boxes for your next online order!

Recycling Oyster Shells

A healthy oyster population in South Carolina depends on your recycled oyster shells, which are collected and used to rebuild oyster reefs. Every 3 bushels makes 10 square feet of reef, so every bushel counts!

SCDNR is expanding it's South Carolina Oyster Recycling and Enhancement Program (SCORE) to the midlands and looking for dedicated volunteers to help recycle oyster shells from participating restaurants. 

We can also deliver shells from our homes and festivals to City Roots. For more information, email Watch SCWF’s webinar with Holly Sommers to learn more about this program HERE!

Recycling FOG

Avoid pouring FOG (fats, oil, and grease) down drains. They may appear harmless, but they can stick to sewer pipes and build up over time. In addition, other things washed down the drain or garbage disposals, such as coffee grounds, hair, and food particles, get caught up in FOG leading to bigger, more troublesome clogs.

FOG should not be put into recycling bins for home pickup. However, it can be frozen or refrigerated until it solidifies and then scraped into the regular trash. Also, avoid pouring used oil outside onto the ground where it can make its way to storm drains, and eventually waterways. The easiest and most environmentally friendly solution to ridding your home of FOG is to bring it to a county collection center:
In Lexington County
In Richland County

Recycling Old Cellphones

Drop off old cellphones at the front gate of Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. They partner with Eco-Cell’s "Gorillas on the Line" project along with dozens of other zoos around the nation. The phones are sent off once a year to be recycled.

Last year Riverbanks helped to recycle over 700 cellphones and other personal electronic devices. Inside each of these devices is a mineral called "coltan". This mineral is found deep in the jungles of Africa in the same places Western Lowland Gorillas make their homes. By recycling electronics we can reduce the demand for this material and therefore help protect gorillas. Details here.
Contact: Sam Arrowood

Recycling Holiday Lights and Artificial Trees and Wreaths

Artificial trees and wreaths and light strands can be taken to CMC Recycling locations:

Recycling Live Holiday Trees

Let Keep the Midlands Beautiful turn your live holiday tree into wonderful mulch.

The annual “Grinding of the Greens” will be held from December 26 - January 6. More details will be posted here soon.


Arbor Day

Arbor Day in SC is the First Friday of December. Arbor Day celebrates the best time to plant trees in our state while the trees are dormant and the soil is cool and damp. So get planting!

In addition, here are some tree facts to celebrate:
  • Recently a ceremony was held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center as The 9/11 Remembrance Foundation of South Carolina received a sapling from the “Survivor Tree” - a tree that survived the 9/11 attacks and was nurtured and replanted on the World Trade Center grounds. The sapling will be planted on the grounds of the convention center, close to the Midlands First Responders and Military Service Members Memorial. Columbia is one of many cities across the country to receive a sapling. (The State)
  • The tallest trees east of the Mississippi can be found at Congaree National Park. Congaree has the largest concentration of champion trees (trees that are the largest of their species) in all of North America.

Holiday Shopping

Many consumers claim to care about the environment, but research suggests they have other priorities when deciding what to buy. This article suggests behavioral nudges might help.

Want to shop sustainably?

  • Buy local food
    A recent study by UofSC Darla Moore School of Business research economist Joseph C. Von Nessen, Ph.D. reports a $176.3 million increase in food purchased from South Carolina farmers in 2018 compared to 2010. The study attributes the work of Certified South Carolina, a cooperative that promotes SC food products, with the increase in support. Read more about the study here.
  • Buy tea grown at the Charleston Tea Garden
    Started in 1987, this is the only commercial tea garden in the US! They don't use any pesticides or herbicides and use rainwater for watering their tea plants. Rosewood Market and other local stores carry their American Classic Tea, Charleston Breakfast Tea, Carolina Mint Tea, Mint Green Tea, & Rockville Raspberry Tea.
  • Buy shade-grown coffee
    No coffee beans are grown locally but by purchasing Birds & Beans Coffee through the SC Wildlife Federation’s Coffee Club we help conserve critical wintering habitat for those beautiful neotropical bird species that use the shade-grown coffee farms from which Birds & Beans obtains its coffee beans.  
    Here is a wonderful video on the importance and impact of shade-grown coffee farms. Please watch it and notice the visual difference between sun-grown and shade-grown coffee farms at the 1:55 to 2:12 minute mark.  How many "SC" bird species do you recognize in the video? Contact:
  • Buy local sustainable skincare products from “Just Wanna Melt.” For details and a list of local retail locations visit their website. 
  • Buy Experiences, Not Things
    Think tickets to Riverbanks Zoo or one of our great museums: Edventure, State Museum, or the Columbia Museum of Art.
  • Buy Recycled
    More companies are incorporating recycled plastic into their products in an effort to drive demand for recycled material.  For example, Igloo launched a soft-sided cooler made from REPREVE, a recycled plastic fiber made in the Carolina’s from #1 plastic-like soda and water bottles. Read more here.

Upcoming Events

(9 am- 4pm) daily except National Holidays Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit at Congaree National Park.
Details here
Volunteers needed.
Free Clemson Physical/Chemical and Bacteria Monitoring Hybrid Virtual/In Person Workshop
Details and Registration
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