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'Tis the season to recycle the Christmas tree

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28 2013 11:52 p.m. MST

Ken Done unloads his Christmas tree at Murray Park in Murray on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Live Christmas trees carry the scent of fresh pine and bring wonder to the season when annual traditions of bringing one home are involved.

Eventually, however, those cut evergreens dry up and are thrown out. And while each city might have a different set of rules for disposal, waste management officials are encouraging residents to dispose of Christmas trees properly.

"They can always be used somehow," said Davis Landfill manager Preston Lee. He said that by the end of January, there's quite a pile of old trees at the landfill.

"It's better than throwing it away and it's free," he said. "And it doesn't end up taking landfill space."

Christmas trees can be disposed at the landfill in Layton at no charge. The trees are then ground into mulch and sold for $5 a scoop, which is half the price of the site's regular mulch mix. Pine mulch, Lee said, is more acidic than some wood products and "provides a great weed barrier."

Tim Parson, of Monster Tree Service in Layton, said when used properly, different mulch products can condition the soil and decaying wood, such as pine, is often beneficial to flower and plant beds.

Depending on the region of the country and what is grown there, he said Christmas trees can include Douglas fir, white fir, spruce trees and hemlock. Each type provides different nutrients to the soil when it runs through its life cycle.

As a certified arborist, Parson provides advice on tree conditions and proper care and maintenance, cost estimates on hazardous tree removal, as well as other services.

The company is new to the area and provides educational resources regarding trees and shrub overgrowth that is common in the mountainous regions. Evergreens, also common to mountainous regions and popular during the winter months, can be enjoyed through all seasons, Parson said.

Potted Christmas trees, he said, are a popular option that can be replanted, adding to a property's landscaping.

"Put it in your garage for about a week, to let it climatize," Parson advised, adding that the tree then must be put into the frozen ground. He said the tree will do best planted with two inches remaining above the surrounding ground and watered with about 15 gallons at first. The new tree should also be staked into the ground to help it grow straight.

Leaving a live, potted tree in the pot too long, Parson said, can lead it to be root-bound.

Used Christmas trees can also provide great habitats for wildlife, if a home's surrounding foliage permits it, Parson said. Trees are also sometimes sunk in ponds and lakes to rehabilitate aquatic culture.

The National Christmas Tree Association lists on its website many ways that trees are being reused and recycled throughout the country, including rebuilding sand dunes in New Jersey, post-Hurricane Sandy, and at parks in Tennessee.

Within neighborhoods, however, Parson said discarded Christmas trees left on site "become such an eyesore."

In much of Davis County, used Christmas trees can be left at the curb for pickup with the regular garbage collection schedule. In Salt Lake County, curbside pickup begins Jan. 2 and goes through the end of the month.

Park City, Murray, Sandy, and some other cities are offering Christmas tree collection sites at community parks and other locations, and, as with all tree recycling, the trees need to be free of ornaments and flocking. More information can be found online, at individual city websites.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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