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Recycling Christmas Trees

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Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Having emerged from Christmas, I have resolved to become more aware of life's challenges and do the right thing more often. I'm making more of a commitment to recycle.

The famous phrase From dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return'' refers to all living material that eventually goes back into the soil. Taking a little scriptural license, because of my training, I would probably phrase it,From soil thou art and to soil shalt thou return,'' but that wouldn't likely catch on.

Of course, the most obvious product to recycle right now is the Christmas tree. The correct way to recycle a Christmas tree is to convert it back to dust (or soil) through the mulching process, so it can help other trees and plants grow.

Fortunately, tree recycling programs have caught on in most communities, and it is now a relatively simple process. Crews in many cities will pick up the trees at curbside and transport them recycling facilities including the solid-waste disposal facility at 6030 W. 1300 South. Last year, 167 tons of Christmas trees were recycled. There they will be shredded into mulch. Mulches control weeds, conserve moisture and add valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

Before recycling your tree, remove the lights and decorations. Do not put trees in plastic bags and remember flocked trees cannot be recycled.

If you have a shredder, you can convert trees from throughout the neighborhood into valuable organic matter.

If you are unsure where to recycle your tree, call your local city offices or disposal company. Trees will be accepted at no charge at. While taking your tree there, you may want to pick up a load of organic matter to add to your garden.

If you have homemade decorations such as strung popcorn or other edible materials that are no longer palatable, consider placing the tree in the back yard. Decorate it with bits of suet or other treats for the birds. Be sure to place a fresh pan of water near the tree as birds often have a problem getting enough water during the cold winter months.

Another use for the branches of the Christmas tree are as mulches for flower beds. Cut the branches off of the tree. Turn the branches bottom side up so the natural bow will help hold snow off of fall planted flowers. Try using them as a covering on those open areas next to the foundation that are attractive to the neighborhood cats. Perhaps the cats will move elsewhere when confronted with sharp needles.

The wrong way to recycle a Christmas tree is to stuff it into your garbage can so it ends up being buried at the landfill. With so many opportunities to recycle, it's foolish to bury trees and consider them garbage.

Another recycling mistake is to burn the trees. Outdoor burning is not allowed, and a Christmas tree should never be burned in a fireplace or stove. A dry tree burns with an almost explosive fury, and I hear horror stories of serious chimney fires or even worse calamities from this method of disposal.

Even if you remove all the branches, the trunk must be aged for a year for it to dry out and burn properly. Green wood is full of moisture and creosote and can constitute a serious fire hazard.

All gardeners must have a belief that the future holds great and wonderful promise as they enter the new year. Hope springs eternal to grow bigger pumpkins, sweeter apples, tastier tomatoes and more beautiful flowers. The miraculous transformation of the earth each spring is what sustains most gardeners, even after discouraging seasons.

Drop-off or curbside pickup points include: * Alta: Deposit Christmas trees on the west side of the beige recycling trailer Dec. 26 through Jan. 18. Bluffdale/ Copperton/ Herriman: Trans-Jordan Landfill, 10873 S. 7200 West, will recycle trees at no charge until Jan. 31. A fee will be charged if trees are flocked or in plastic bags or mixed loads. Draper: Christmas trees are collected at Draper City Public Works, 14501 S. Minuteman Drive (100 East), until Jan. 6. Midvale: City crews will collect trees at the curb Jan. 1-15 or drop them off at the Midvale City Public Works Shop, 8196 S. Main, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Jan. 16. Murray: Trees are collected Dec. 26 through Jan. 12 at Grant Park (6200 S. Valley Drive (45 West) and the main parking lot in Murray City Park (5100 S. State St.). Riverton: Christmas trees are collected until Jan. 31 at Riverton Centennial Park (13100 S. 2700 West) and Riverton Rodeo Park (12800 S. 1300 West). Salt Lake County: Leave trees until Jan. 31 at the following county parks: Cottonwood Ballpark, 4300 S. 1300 East; Bywater Park, 7420 S. 3300 East; Pleasant Green Pool, 3230 S. 8400 West, and Southridge Park, 5210 S. 4015 West. Holladay: Drop trees at the Rite Aid drugstore, 4714 S. Holladay Blvd., until Jan. 31. Taylorsville: Leave trees at the Valley Regional Park, north parking lot, 5135 S. 2700 West until Jan. 31. Salt Lake City: City street crews are collecting tree at the curb of Salt Lake City homes during the month of January.

Salt Lake Valley Solid Waste Management Facility, 6030 W. California Ave. (1280 South), will accept and recycle trees until Jan. 31.

Sandy: Trees will be collected Dec. 26 through Jan. 9 at these locations: Parks and Cemetery Shop, 9120 S. 700 East; Storm Mountain Park, 11400 S. 1000 East; Flat Iron Mesa Park, 8600 S. 1700 East; Highpoint Park, 7800 S. 1000 East; Crescent Park, 11000 S. 230 East; Buttercup Park, 10075 S. 1550 East.

South Salt Lake: Christmas trees will be collected at the curb through Jan. 11 and at 195 W. Oakland Ave. (2470 South) until Jan. 7.

South Jordan: Trees will be picked up at the curb Jan. 8, 9, 15 and 16. Trees must be at the curb by 6 a.m.

The Trans-Jordan Landfill at 10873 S. 7200 West in South Jordan will recycle trees at no charge until Jan. 31. A fee will be charged if trees are flocked or in plastic bags or mixed loads.

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