Christmas tree into mulch: your gift to the environment

January 02, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Staff Writer

Tim Dennison's Christmas tree is drying up, and the needles are falling from its branches. Now that it's a new year, Mr. Dennison said, he's going to do what he has always done with his used tree.

"We just take it over to the park and drop it into a big pile, and they mysteriously take it away," he said.

Workers from the Howard County Bureau of Environmental Services and the Bureau of Parks are the mysterious agents who pick up the used Christmas trees each year. They grind the trees into mulch, which is later used in the county parks, and this year they're at it again.

From Jan. 12 through Jan. 19, county residents can take their used trees to Savage Park, Rockburn Park, Cedar Lane Park or Schooley Mill Park where they will be recycled as mulch.

The parks are open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and residents can follow orange tape and signs that will direct them to the drop-off sites.

The county provides this service as a way to turn one man's trash into the county's treasure.

"Mulch helps retain moisture in the plants and it looks prettier. If you can grind trees into mulch and recycle it, that's wonderful. It saves us money too," said Betsy McMillion, recycling program coordinator for environmental services department.

She said the recycling helps the county in other ways as well.

"Recycling the trees helps reduce the amount of material that's going into the county landfill," she said. "We've found that 12 percent of the material in the landfill is yard waste -- grass, leaves, brush. And, of course, Christmas trees are a part of that. Anything that's keeping stuff out of the landfill gives the landfill a longer life."

The trees should be stripped of all ornaments, tinsel, stands and ropes, before they are taken for recycling because those elements can contaminate the mulch.

Two Columbia nurseries, Grandfather's Garden Center and Metzler's Nursery, are also recycling trees until Jan. 15 as a service to their customers. Customers can drop off their trees at any time in the parking lot of Metzler's Nursery and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Grandfather's Garden Center and have their trees made into mulch.

County citizens can also set out whole trees free of stands, tinsel or ornaments for curbside collection on their regular recycling day until Jan. 15 or, with a residential permit, drop them off at the Residents Convenience Center in the county landfill.

Trees also can be cut into 4-foot lengths, bundled and placed on the curb on regularly scheduled trash-collection days.

"We don't want them to do that," Ms. McMillion said. "We want them to recycle!"

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