Real trees can be recycled

Published 7:25 pm Saturday, December 26, 2009

People looking to recycle their real Christmas trees after they undeck the halls won’t find a lot of options in the area.

“We aren’t doing anything special with the trees this year,” said Southeastern Public Service Authority spokesman Tom Kreidel. Trees can be placed at the curb and collected in the regular bulk pickup cycle, which is once again free in Suffolk.

However, that means trees will go to the landfill and take years to biodegrade because of lack of oxygen. Many people want their real trees to go to better use, said Becky Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for the National Christmas Tree Association.

Programs across America use Christmas trees for a variety of uses after they are removed from homes. In many cases, the trees are chipped and used for mulch or hiking paths.

Other programs, however, use them to shore up eroding beaches, drop them into lakes to create fish habitat, or pile them in the woods to create hiding places for small animals.

SPSA, however, has no such program, so area residents will be forced to get more creative when recycling their real trees.

One option, suggested by the National Christmas Tree Association, is to create a bird and squirrel feeder by propping the tree up in the backyard, and decorating it with wild bird treats, pieces of fruit, strings of popcorn and other treats for the wildlife. All trees should have all decorations, hooks, lights and tinsel removed before being placed outside to avoid injury to animals.

Another option for people who have larger properties is to allow the tree to degrade in the woods. People who have lakes or ponds on their property can drop the tree in, which provides nutrients and habitat to the fish.

Depending on where the tree was purchased, Rasmussen said, the place of purchase may accept the tree back and chip it themselves.

With no recycling program in the area, Rasmussen encouraged interested people to start their own. A guide to beginning a recycling program is available on the National Christmas Tree Association’s Web site, www.christmastree.org.

In addition, Rasmussen said, Boy Scout troops sometimes collect the trees for a small fee as a fundraiser. To find a Boy Scout troop, call 595-3356.