With the holidays coming to an end, it's time to dispose of your dead Christmas trees and broken lights. But before you toss them to the curb, did you know they can be recycled? Instead of taking up space in our landfills, there are several ways your tree can be useful to the environment: providing shelter for wildlife, starting a new compost pile, creating mulch and firewood, and much more.
Before disposing of your live-cut Christmas tree remember to remove all trimmings including tinsel, garland, lights, and ornaments, as these can be harmful to the environment and wildlife. Also, be sure to have proper permission before discarding your tree on public or private property. Discarding trees without permission could result in a litter violation.
Shelter for Backyard Wildlife
Leave your Christmas tree in its stand, and set it out in your yard. By doing so, you have not only given yourself and your neighbors something pretty to look at, but more importantly you have provided winter shelter for birds. You can continue to enjoy the beauty of your Christmas tree by decorating it with wildlife friendly treats, such as slices of fruit, suet, a string of cranberries and popcorn, and pinecones covered in peanut butter and bird seed.
If you have plenty of trees in your yard, consider laying your Christmas tree on its side, creating a wildlife-friendly brush pile. Place the tree in a desired location and stack limbs all around it in a square arrangement, layering more brush until a desired height is achieved. Cover the top with additional brush to create a unique and valuable shelter for small animals. Songbirds, including northern cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches travel in and out of brush piles for food, nesting, and to escape predators. Small mammals, including cottontail rabbits and chipmunks also use brush piles for shelter and raising their young.
Start a New Compost Pile
The evergreen branches from your recycled tree provides a great base for a new compost pile. The branches allow for airflow at the bottom of the pile, and they will break down over time. Just trim them down so they fit in your compost bin. After you've placed them, go ahead and start adding your kitchen scraps, as well as other compostable items. When composting a Christmas tree, it is beneficial to strip the tree of its needles as they are resistant to composting bacteria, thus slowing the process.
Recycled live-cut Christmas trees make a great structure for fish habitat, on both public and private waterways. If you have a pond, and your tree is chemical-free, submerge your tree into the water to provide a sheltering habitat. Christmas trees are also gathered by the Division of Wildlife fisheries staff from various recycling drop-off programs, for use as fish habitat in many Ohio parks. Trees are bundled together and weighted down so they sink to the bottom of waterways. Many fish species are attracted to this newly created habitat, including crappie, bluegill, and other panfish, as well as largemouth bass and saugeye.
This winter, Christmas tree drop offs can be found on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website at ohiodnr.gov or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Ground Cover for Perennials
By cutting long branches from your Christmas tree, you can lay them over perennials to insulate them from frost and snow. This is especially useful for perennials that are susceptible to frost heaving; an upwards swelling of soil during freezing conditions caused by an increasing presence of ice. A covering of evergreen branches could be the difference between losing a plant this winter and seeing it bloom again next year.
Mulch and Firewood
You don't need a fancy chipper to turn your tree into mulch if you have the patience. You can cut the thinner tree branches into smaller pieces with hand clippers. By snipping them into one to two-inch sized chunks, they cover your mulched paths and garden beds nicely. It's a cheap way to add extra mulch to your pathways, and as a bonus, the path will have a wonderful aroma.
The trunk of the Christmas tree could also be dried for a few weeks and then used as firewood. Be advised that fir trees are filled with pitch (a tacky resin-like substance produced by trees that belong to the Pinaceae family) dried wood from this family of trees can explode when set on fire. So take great care and caution if you decide to burn a fir tree.
Check with your local city or township to see if they have any programs or events for recycling live-cut Christmas trees. Some communities will accept the trees and shred them to use as mulch on park trails.
Recycle Those Holiday Lights
Cohen Recycling, a public & commercial recycling facility in Butler County, accepts string lights, including traditional and LED-style bulbs broken, working, and non-working at no charge.
Hamilton - 105 Black Street, 45011
Middletown - 3120 S. Verity Parkway, 45044
For more information check with the Recycling and Solid Waste District on their website at www.butlercountyrecycles.org.