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Christmas Trees Now Get New Life As Compost

Judy Fahys
Twas the season for trees like this. Now it's headed to the compost heap .

Christmas is over, and now Utahns are starting to think about taking down their trees. Many communities have tree pickup programs that give the trees new purpose -- as compost.

Pam Roberts is executive director of the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, which composted 59 tons of trees last year. That’s down from 63 tons the year before.

“We do take the trees out for composting,” she says. “And since they’re clean – they’re free of any ornaments or lights or flocking – the landfill charges a very small fee for us to take those to their composting center, and the grind them up.”

Christmas tree pickups take place through January in her district on the same day as ordinary garbage and recycling pickups for the 82,000 homes the district serves. Trees over eight feet should be cut in half and placed on the curb, and no trees should go into waste bins.

“We do provide this service as part of the regular fees that we charge our residents to try to divert useable waste from the landfill,” says Roberts. “Yeah, if they just put it out on the curb, we’ll come get it.”

But every community is different. For instance, Salt Lake City urges residents to use their compost bins for discarded Christmas trees.

So it’s a good idea to check with the agency that handles waste in your community.

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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