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Tis The Season To Recycle Xmas Trees

They’ve filled the room with evergreen scent. They’ve filled families with Christmas cheer. Now those live Christmas trees can serve yet another purpose – as compost.   

The tree-composting campaign is part of a broader program in the Salt Lake Valley to encourage all forms of recycling.

The Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District sent around 70 tons of trees to the landfill after last Christmas. This year’s expected to be about the same.

“Starting January 4th, we’ll be out in the neighborhoods on the regular collection day for our residents,” Pam Roberts is the waste district’s director. “They can put their tree out curbside, and we’ll come along and pick that up as long as it’s free of ornaments, lights and as long as it’s a real tree not an artificial tree.”

Flocking and tinsel are a problem too, she says.

Here at the Salt Lake Valley landfill, shredders make quick work of compostable waste from throughout the county. Pieces of trees and leaves and food waste are on their way to becoming garden nutrients.

“The Christmas trees because they’re very acidic need to be mixed with brush,” says Mercedes Anto, the landfill’s recycling coordinator. “So they get shredded, put into wind rows, where we let them decompose for three to six months. Then it goes through a trommel screen, and the fine material gets sold as compost here at the landfill.”

Pickups begin in some communities right after Christmas. But each area is different, so homeowners should check local agencies on recycling discarded trees. And by next spring, the composted trees will get new life in garden beds.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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