Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree — opportunities abound to recycle ye

What to do with Ol’ Tannenbaum once the holiday is past? Colorado Recycles has a roundup of more than 100 Christmas tree recycling programs across the state. Last year, the nonprofit group estimated roughly 550,000 Christmas trees — out of 615,000 live trees displayed in Colorado — found their way to recyclers. Many local trash haulers offer curbside recycling for the trees, while other municipalities and groups offer drop-off points.

Find information about Christmas tree recycling programs in every Colorado county. Or check out this Denver Post story that details Christmas tree recycling availability for most Front Range communities, including information on obtaining mulch from the programs (usually available in a few months).

It’s important to prepare your tree properly before recycling — both for the safety of recyclers and to avoid disqualifying your tree from the shredders. Colorado Recycles instructs:

Nationally, approximately 93% of the real Christmas trees are recycled through community programs. However, before you take advantage of a recycling program, please be sure to check with the recycler for important instructions about how to prepare your tree. It is important for the safety of the crews and machinery that all ornaments, lights, tinsel, nails, wire, garlands and stands be removed from the tree. Many recycling programs cannot accept flocked trees. Please take the time to learn what restrictions may be applicable to your local recycling program. A good rule of thumb is to take your tree to the recycler in the same condition as you would find it naturally in the forest. [emphasis added]

It probably goes without saying, but let’s underline this point anyway: Don’t try to recycle plastic, aluminum and other artificial trees, at least not in community Christmas tree recycling programs.

While most Colorado trees wind up shredded or chipped, the Colorado Recycles site points to other uses for used Christmas trees:

While it is not used much in Colorado currently, a major use of the natural Christmas trees is for erosion control, soil stabilization and stream bank and shoreline maintenance. Several southern and Midwest states use Christmas trees in this fashion, and Louisiana has an extensive erosion control program. When the trees are used in streams, lakes, and ponds, they not only stabilize the soils but they also provide a valuable habitat for fish, birds, mammals and amphibians.

The Louisiana program has been extraordinarily successful. The state collects the discarded trees, and places them into specially constructed fenced areas along the coastal marshes to protect the coastline from salt water intrusion and to aid in the natural process of sedimentation. More than 600,000 trees have been used in this program. Louisiana undertook this creative preservation and restoration program because the state was losing 25-35 square miles of marsh each year. Louisiana alone accounted for approximately 80% of the nation ’s wetland loss per year.

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Ernest Luning

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