Over 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America every year, and according to the National Christmas Tree Association, 93% of consumers who use real Christmas trees recycle them using some type of community program. Because the week following the New Year's Day holiday is traditionally the time when most Christmas trees are taken down, here are some post-holiday tips for prolonging your tree's usefulness.
Curbside Pickup & Recycling Programs
Many communities now offer curbside pickup or drop-off sites for Christmas trees after the holidays. In some cases, the trees are run through a chipper and the woodchips are sold as mulch or used on local trails or in community gardens. In other cities, trees are picked up and used by local conservation groups to help prevent beach erosion or stabilize shorelines along local rivers and lakes.
Examples of how Christmas trees are being recycled:
- Porter County, Indiana: Conservation groups are using discarded trees at a wildlife rehabilitation site to provide cover for birds and small animals.
- Gulf Shores, Alabama: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used recycled trees for dune restoration following hurricane Ivan.
- New Orleans: Discarded Christmas trees are being used to rebuild wetlands and the Louisiana coastline following hurricane Katrina.
- Cook County, Illinois: Recycled trees are providing nesting materials for threatened birds like blue herons and great egrets .
- Keene, New Hampshire: Christmas trees are used in lakes and ponds to restore fish habitat.
- Clarksville, Tennessee: Woodchips are used to enhance local hiking trails.
- Tomahawk, Wisconsin: Ground trees are used as boiler fuel to power plants and factories.
(Source: National Christmas Tree Association) The number of tree recycling programs continues to grow each year, but unfortunately, many trees still end up in landfills. For information on Christmas tree recycling programs in your area, contact your public works department, local Christmas tree farm or visit http://www.christmastree.org/recycle.cfm and type in your zip code.
Turn your post-holiday tree into a winter sanctuary for backyard birds. Adorn the branches with seed and suet feeders, dried fruits, and peanut butter-coated pinecones rolled in birdseed to make a cozy winter birdfeeder. Prop up your tree by "planting" it into a snow bank or wiring it to a light post or nearby tree.
Another great way to re-use your Christmas tree is to use the boughs as winter mulch to protect your perennials. Remove the boughs from the tree and layer them loosely over plants so they trap the snow, or simply lay the entire tree on its side next to the plants. Acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas will appreciate the extra springtime boost they get from dropped needles.
Layer tree branches over the vegetable garden or exposed flower beds to help prevent soil erosion caused by harsh winter winds. Ask your neighbors for their trees. Place them upright in snow banks along your driveway or sidewalk to create a temporary seasonal windbreak.
In the spring, grind your tree down and you'll have ready-made mulch for your garden beds and walking paths, or add some woodchips to your compost pile.
If you have a backyard pond or own lakeshore property, consider using your tree to provide some fish-friendly habitat. Submerged trees provide fish with safe, natural cover for feeding and spawning.
Preparing Your Tree for Recycling:
- Remove all decorations and foreign materials from your tree. This includes lights, tinsel, garland, plastic wrap, wire, rope, nails, hooks, and plastic bags used for cleanup and transport.
- Remove the tree from its stand.
- Flocked trees (decorated with fake snow) cannot be recycled and should be set out with the trash. Contact your waste management company about extra charges.
For easy removal of your Christmas tree, with a sheet on the rug to catch the needles, clip off the branches at their base with a sharp garden tool and put them in a garbage bag. Then taking out the tree becomes as easy as carrying a broomstick. Use the needles for filling sachet pillows when they dry.
By Mary Ann from Clifton Park, NY