Get rid of trees safely

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas has come and gone, but Suffolk residents are still left with leftover Christmas trees and boxes. The Suffolk Department of Public Works Refuse Division will take care of these leftovers in a special collection that lasts for two weeks.

The collection began on Wednesday and lasts through Jan. 5. During this period, all Christmas trees and boxes will not be counted toward each customer’s 12 free bulk collections each year.

The trees will need to be placed at the curb on the same day as the residence’s regular collection. Trees do not have to be secured and boxes do not have to be collapsed, according to the press release.

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Any Christmas trees put out for collection after Jan. 5 will be picked up, but will count as a special collection. Customers are entitled to 12 annual bulk collections for free.

Collected refuse will be delivered to the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s Suffolk Transfer Station at the municipal landfill, according to Acting Public Works Director L.J. Hansen. SPSA will then dispose of the material by whatever means meet their operational objectives.

Citizens are encouraged to dispose of their Christmas trees early for safety reasons. Statistics show that nearly 40 percent of home fires in the United States that start with Christmas trees occur in January, according to the press release.

The problem is that trees are combustible and get worse as they continue to dry out. This becomes more obvious as the tree’s needles fall off and the branches become more brittle, according to Fire Marshal Lt. Chuck Chapin.

He emphasized that Christmas tree lights on these trees carry potentially dangerous electrical charges, and homemade ornaments are likely to be made of combustible materials, further compounding the issue.

The city offered tips for safely removing lighting and decorations and how to store them properly so that they’re still in good condition for next year:

Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug a device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord and increase the risk for shock or electrical fire.

Inspect each line of light strings for damage, and dispose of any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or wires that are cracked or bare.

Wrap each set of lights and store them in individual plastic bags, or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.

Store electrical decorations in a dry space away from children and pets where there’s no risk for water damage or dampness.

Real Christmas trees don’t necessarily have to be tossed out. They can be recycled for a new purpose after holiday festivities end. In a press release, listed a few of these creative ideas:

Place the tree in the yard with citrus peels and strung popcorn for the birds.

Shred the pine needles to use on pathways and trails.

Drape the boughs and branches on plant beds for protection during the winter.

Use the tree as a habitat for wintering birds and woodland creatures.

Sink branches into ornamental ponds to feed the fish.

Snip small branches for fire pit kindling.

For the safety of wildlife, trees should be free of ornaments, tinsel or stands when they are placed at the curb on collection days or put outside for the enjoyment of creatures, according to