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Christmas tree recycling makes for an ever-green holiday

| November 12, 2013

Now that the Christmas tree is up in Rockefeller Center we don’t feel it’s at all too premature to start talking about Christmas tree recycling.

If your family celebrates Christmas, you may have wondered what happens to your tree after you drag it out to the curb. You may enjoy knowing that, long after the decorations have been taken down and the last piece of pie has been eaten, the Christmas spirit keeps going as discarded trees get new life.

christmas tree recycling

Over 25 million Christmas trees are cut down and sold each year. Make sure yours ends up recycled! From Kevin Krejci.

In an Associated Press article recently published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writer Beth J. Harpaz details “one of America’s great recycling success stories,” in which “every year, hundreds of thousands of discarded Christmas trees are collected and reused.”

It turns out that many of the trees left curbside are picked up and turned into useful mulch that can be incorporated into gardens. They are also sometimes used as “natural path materials” on hiking trails.

But that’s just the beginning. Harpaz reports that Christmas trees are also “placed on beaches to shore up dunes and sunk in lakes as fish habitats. They’ve even been milled into lumber for use in building homes.”

With 25 to 30 million fresh Christmas trees cut and sold each year, it’s heartening to know that so many trees don’t suffer a one-and-done fate.

The most famous Christmas tree in America is a trendsetter for post-holiday reuse. The towering pine in Rockefeller Center has been donated to Habitat for Humanity for the past seven years. “The tradition began when the 2007 Rockefeller Center tree went to build a home in Pascagoula, Miss., to a survivor of Hurricane Katrina,” reports Harpaz.

christmas tree recycling

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is turned into lumber for Habitat for Humanity. From Schwingi.

Katrina isn’t the only natural disaster to see relief efforts from Christmas trees. Discarded trees were also used to build up beaches in New Jersey following superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Many communities have dedicated Christmas tree recycling/reuse programs, and action plans differ from community to community. If you’re not sure what happens to discarded Christmas trees in your community, don’t be afraid to ask your local department of public works.

Even if your community doesn’t haul away and recycle Christmas trees, there are ways to ensure that your tree doesn’t go to waste. You could consider hauling your own tree to a local drop-off center, which is typically free for up to two trees.

If you’re interested in going green by personally reaping the benefits of your tree, you could hire someone to turn your tree into mulch that will be returned to you for use in your own garden or for landscaping.

Many people choose artificial trees because they assume that fresh trees are wasteful, but the truth is that artificial trees come with their own environmental impact — especially since many are “manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)” which is non-biodegradable and will mean that an artificial tree will sit in a landfill indefinitely after it is no longer used.

Neither fresh nor artificial Christmas trees are without a carbon footprint, but it’s reassuring knowing that fresh trees can stay on the “Nice” list and go on to do good after Christmas is over.

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About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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