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Why You Should Recycle Your Christmas Trees; Recycling and Disposal Options

( [email protected] ) Dec 28, 2015 12:56 PM EST
Rather than kicking natural Christmas trees to curbs for city solid waste pickup, more Americans are donating holiday trees to organizations whose employees and volunteers can repurpose them for wildlife, fish or recreational environments. For example, Missouri Department of Conservation representatives have collected natural Christmas trees for more than 25 years to recycle as fish habitats in local lakes. Other trees nationwide are going toward soil erosion barriers, bird sanctuaries and walking trails.
Instead of tossing your Christmas trees to a landfill, you can recycle them to create habitats for fish and other aquatic life in local ponds and lakes, as well as helping to slow erosion. DARREN STAPLES / Reuters

Rather than kicking natural Christmas trees to curbs for city solid waste pickup, more Americans are donating holiday trees to organizations whose employees and volunteers can repurpose them for wildlife, fish or recreational environments. For example, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) representatives have collected natural Christmas trees for more than 25 years to recycle as fish habitats in local lakes. By weighing down the donated pine and cedar trees, the interlocking branches create a network where small fish gather, reproduce and feed.

Scott Voney, MDC's fisheries management biologist, works with parks and recreation departments to create drop-off locations where residents can haul their natural Christmas trees to be sunk and recycled as fish habitats.

Voney also travels to stores and other drop-off sites to collect trees and recycle them this way.

When it's time to dump the trees, he uses cables to connect cinderblocks to the trees and sinks them on top of the brush pile from the previous year. These piles are created in eight feet of water or less where the oxygen levels are higher and attract more fish, he told the Fulton Sun.

Voney said these habitats are important for newborn fish, which need a place to hide from bigger fish.

Some state conservation groups also mulch donated trees for other uses. "It's a good idea to remove ornaments and lights before dropping them off," Voney said.

National Christmas Tree Association staffers offer the following additional tips for reusing trees:

Soil erosion barriers:  Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management. For example, Christmas trees are helping the sand dunes in New Jersey recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Bird feeders:  Place Christmas trees in gardens or backyards, and use them as bird feeders and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds, and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually, within a year, the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper

Mulch:  A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.

Paths for hiking trails:  Some counties use the shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.

(Photo : Missouri Department of Conservation)
Give natural Christmas trees new life by recycling or repurposing them into fish and wildlife habitats, bird sanctuaries, mulch, materials for walking trails or soil erosion materials.

For information or guidance about how to start and promote a holiday tree recycling program, send an email to [email protected]

Examples of how some communities are applying recycled Christmas trees are:

Animal Enrichment at Busch Gardens - Williamsburg, Virginia

Salmon Spawning - Northwest Oregon

Rebuilding an Island - Easton, Maryland

Wildlife Habitat - Porter County, Indiana

Mulch for Planting - Georgia

Dune Restoration - Gulf Shores, Alabama

Rebuilding the Louisiana Coastline - Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

Home for the Herons - Cook County, Illinois

Giving Back to the Community - San Diego, California

Improving Fishing Areas - Keene, New Hampshire

Building Better Parks - Clarksville, Tennessee

Fueling Our Nation's Industry - Tomahawk, Wisconsin

Turning Trees into Electricity - Burlington, Vermont

Many Home Depot locations across the country offer Christmas tree recycling free of charge. Call your local Home Depot store to find out if they are participating. If not, Earth911 offers a handy search tool to locate Christmas tree recycling options near you. 

Tags : Christmas Trees, Recycling Christmas trees, Missouri Department of Conservation, National Christmas Tree Association, Parks, Donating Christmas Trees, Uses of Christmas Trees, How to Repurpose Christmas Trees, Tree Recycling, Coastline Restoration, Dune Restoration, Home Depot, Earth911