San Mateo County officials are encouraging local residents to make their holidays a little greener this year.
The San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program (SMCWPPP) is reminding residents that holiday traditions such as using certain types of wrapping paper and Christmas tree ornaments can pollute their communities.
Holiday packaging material such as gift boxes, wrapping paper and ribbons "can create serious environmental impacts when burned," warns Matt Farby of SMCWPPP.
"When wrapping paper is burned, soot and other harmful pollutants are emitted. These toxins collect in clouds, roadways and other surfaces. Rain then flushes them into local creeks, causing stormwater pollution, sow we're asking residents not to burn gift wrap," he said.
The county program is also encouraging residents to steer clear of foil gift wrap, which is not recyclable and emits some of the worst toxins when burned, according to Farby. Recyclable wrapping paper such as newspaper is a good alternative, he said.
When trimming the Christmas tree, the public should avoid flock and tinsel, which are not recyclable and tend to pollute when they are thrown away, according to the SMCWPPP.
In addition, all Bay Area residents are reminded to refrain from burning wood or paper during Winter Spare the Air Alerts from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
"Burning wrapping paper, boxes and other wrapping material is illegal anytime, not just when the air district calls a Winter Spare the Air Alert," air district Executive Officer Jack Broadbent said.
To check for Winter Spare the Air alerts before loading up the fireplace, residents can call (877)4-NO-BURN.
More tips for a greener holiday season can be found at www.RecycleWorks.org.