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Christmas trees prove useful after the holidays

Christmas trees prove useful after the holidays

Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 9:02 pm

 The ornaments and tinsel have come off the tree. Now what? There are many options for those who enjoyed the beauty of fresh-cut Christmas trees. At Dunbar Cave State Park near Clarksville, recycled Christmas trees are used as a natural enhancement for the park’s many hiking trails. Each year, about 1,000 Christmas trees are mulched for use at the park. Volunteers help spread the mulch along the trails, which helps to cushion the walkways for visitors and deter erosion, according to information posted on the National Christmas Tree Association’s Web site, www.christmastree.org. “The reason Christmas trees are so important is by definition they don’t have any invasive species or seeds,” David Boen, a Friends of Dunbar Cave board member, told The Leaf Chronicle newspaper. “The only mulch, in fact, that Dunbar Cave has is from Christmas trees.” Unfortunately, the Obion County Recycle Center is not currently equipped with a large grinder tub that would be necessary for making mulch from discarded Christmas trees, but there are still other options for discarded Christmas trees. For example, the New Hamp-shire Fish and Game Department operates a state fisheries habitat restoration program and uses recycled Christmas trees to make fish-friendly habitats. According to information from the association’s Web site, some lake bottoms are void of the natural structures that fish like to hide in. Some of that is natural, but property owners also have contributed by removing fallen trees they consider unsightly or clearing vegetation close to the shore to create sandy beaches, said Gabe Gries, a fisheries biologist with the department. The project, which is funded by the money raised from fishing licenses, drops the recycled trees into lakes, creating “habitat improvement structures” where fish can hide and find food. During an experiment in a Massachusetts lake, state biologists saw a fivefold increase in the number of fish caught around sunken Christmas trees compared to other places in the lake, according to Todd Richards, a fisheries biologist in the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. Other creative recycling options reported to the National Christmas Tree Association include: • The Recycling & Waste Reduction (RWR) District of Porter County in northwest Indiana and the Moraine Ridge Wildlife Rehabilitation Group, along with volunteers from the Valparaiso (Ind.) High School Earth Awareness Club, gather trees and unload them at a 25-acre wildlife rehabilitation site. The trees will provide cover for birds, chipmunks, raccoons and other small wild animals, protecting them from predators, as well as shielding them in harsh weather. • In Georgia, the Christmas tree recycling program “Bring One for the Chipper” is organized by Keep Georgia Beautiful in cooperation with private sponsors. The Chipper program involves hundreds of Georgia communities and thousands of volunteers. Communities have the option of coordinating a pick-up program or relying on designated drop sites, and the trees are then turned into mulch used for playgrounds, beautification projects and individual yards. • A pharmaceutical company in Toronto, Ontario, plans to make an influenza medicine with the shikimic acid extracted from the needles of discarded Christmas trees. • In San Diego, fertile mulch from recycle trees is offered free of charge to residents throughout the year. A program offered since 1973 allows city residents to drop off their Christmas trees at 18 locations or to leave them curbside for collection. All of the trees are then recycled into high-quality mulch and compost, which is available to residents at the Miramar Greenery. • The citizens of Tomahawk, Wis., may not see exactly where their recycled Christmas Trees go, but chances are they use the products made possible by them. Each year, Packaging Corporation of America hires a contractor to grind up the Christmas trees dropped off at a yard waste site. Once this is completed, the materials are loaded up and taken straight to the company’s environmentally-friendly mill. • More than 11,000 Christmas trees were recycled during Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful’s 18th annual Christmas Tree Recycling campaign in Reno, Nev. Recycled trees were chipped into mulch, which is used year-round in park, river and open space projects to prevent weed growth, soil erosion and promote beautification. Mulch also is offered free to Truckee Meadows residents. • As part of a Christmas tree drop-off program in Burlington, Vt., trees are chipped and burned to generate electricity for area power companies and, ultimately, to power thousands of homes around the region. For more information about recycling Christmas trees, visit the National Christmas Tree Association’s Web site, www.christmastree.org. Published in The Messenger 12.29.09

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