Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Monty Georgi tosses a Christmas tree into a Dumpster placed at Windsor Park in Orem by the city so that it can be turned into mulch.

Instead of tossing out the Christmas tree along with the wrapping paper and that week-old fruitcake, recycle it and give a gift that keeps on giving.

During the post-holiday season, recycling experts remind Utahns to take a few extra minutes to separate their live Christmas trees from the rest of the holiday trash and recycle them.

Roy Peterman, grounds director for Brigham Young University and former president of the Recycling Coalition of Utah, said those dried-up symbols of Christmas cheer can be ground up and turned into compost for trees, shrubs, planter boxes, gardens and flower beds.

"It becomes soil for the next generation of growing plants," he said.

But dropping a tree off at the nearest dump has an adverse impact on the environment.

"If you put it in the landfill, the tree and all other putrid material creates methane gas and leachates that are negatives in the ecosystem," Peterman said.

Most cities have recycling programs that can properly dispose of Christmas trees, said Rusty Lundberg, a manager at the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste. He doesn't recommend residents chop their trees and throw them in a trash bag bound for the landfill or, worse, the fireplace.

"Live (trees) have a lot of pitch you wouldn't want to burn," he said.

Some cities, such as Provo, even offer curbside pickup service. But Debra Yazzie, recycling coordinator for Salt Lake County, advises Utahns to make sure all the lights and tinsel are off their trees before they send them off for the wood chipper. Those flashy decorations get ground up and clog the cogs. "It's a really unsightly nuisance," she said.

The compost from used Christmas trees can be used to make a rich material that locks in more moisture at a plant's base, Peterman said. The cost of recycling a ton of trees is significantly less expensive than trashing them, he said.

"There's zero reason not to recycle," he said.

Peterman said you can visit www.utahrecycles.org to locate the closest recycling center. Or you can consult your local sanitation department to find out about individual city programs.

E-mail: jdana@desnews.com