Publish Date: 1997
Christmas trees, in addition to being a valuable forest resource and a special gift when they are taken home at Christmas time, can also be transformed into a worthwhile product by a
Christmas tree recycling program.
Christmas trees improve our environment by producing oxygen, consuming carbon dioxide, and
preventing erosion and loss of top soil. Over 90 percent of the Christmas trees sold in the US
are plantation grown on about 1 million acres of land. During their growing season of four to
fifteen years, one acre of Christmas trees produce the annual oxygen requirement for eighteen
people. As an economic benefit, real Christmas tree sales employ 100,000 people. During the
·Christmas season, 36 percent of American households enjoy the festive appearance and memorable scent of a real Christmas tree . A total of thirty-five million Christmas trees are sold annually in the US. This means that (including unsold trees) over 35 million trees require disposal after the Christmas season.
In response to legislation and increasing public environmental awareness, local governments and private groups are initiating Christmas tree recycling programs: a responsible waste management practice that preserves landfill volume and saves landfill tip fees (which typically range from $8 to $80 per ton - about 115 average size trees).
Christmas tree recycling programs also produce additional benefits. For example, beginning the year with a Christmas tree recycling program encourages the public to recycle and reuse other resources. Some programs have incorporated sales of home composting bins and collection of other recyclables at the tree drop-off sites. They recognize the fact that residents who recycle their trees are likely to participate in other environmental projects. Some programs serve as the starting point for waste reduction and recycling education in the classroom or at home. For example, Christmas tree recyclers have taken the opportunity to distribute holiday waste reduction guides at the drop-off sites. The local government and participating community
organizations also benefit from the opportunity to form partnerships and demonstrate their
environmental concern to the public. Finally, by turning Christmas tree recycling into a holiday tradition, the entire community can feel the satisfaction of changing the Christmas trees from waste into an environmental benefit.
This guidance document provides suggestions on how to create a Christmas tree recycling
program suited to your unique community. Different recycling techniques are illustrated by
profiles of several successful community programs. Sample program cost estimates are also
provided. The document concludes with a list of suggestions and hints from experienced
Christmas tree recyclers. Useful references and resources appear in the conclusion and
appendix to help organize specific program details.