It brought the season into your home and served as a place for Santa to leave gifts, but when the holidays are over, your real Christmas tree has to go.
Christmas trees can be mulched or recycled. Before disposing of your tree, recycling it or using the tree up for mulch, remove all trimmings, including strands of tinsel. Do not burn the tree in a wood stove or fireplace while it is still green, as the resins could cause a flue fire. Always dispose of trees in an environmentally safe manner.
Using trees for mulch reduces weeds, helps to regulate soil temperature and increases moisture retention, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Recycled trees also can be used as fill or to create fish and wildlife habitat.
Area residents have several options for tree disposal.
Desloge, Farmington and Bonne Terre have places where Christmas trees can be dropped off after they are stripped of decorations. The drop-off in Desloge is the dog pound across from City Hall. In Bonne Terre, leave Christmas trees behind the city barn at 21 Service Drive. Farmington’s drop-off site is at Hagar Lake near the bathrooms.
Individuals may bring Christmas trees to the St. Francois County Transfer Station to be used as fill. There is a minimum charge for trees and/or trash of $2. Vehicles are weighed going in and coming out to determine the weight of the load. The minimum charge applies to loads of 140 pounds and less.
There are other ways to recycle Christmas trees.
The National Christmas Tree Association suggests donating your tree to a wildlife rehabilitation center. Trees can be used to provide cover for birds, chipmunks, raccoons and other small wild animals, protecting them from predators as well as shielding them in harsh weather. Depending on ordinances that apply in the area in which you live, you can even start your own wildlife refuge right in your own back yard. Each year add your tree to the pile and watch your refuge grow.
If you have a lake stocked with fish, drop the tree into the lake to create “habitat improvement structures” where fish can hide and find food. During an experiment in a Massachusetts lake, state biologists saw a fivefold increase in the number of fish caught around sunken Christmas trees compared to other places in the lake, according to Todd Richards, a fisheries biologist in the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.
Once submerged, a Christmas tree provides a habitat for water insects, which attract smaller fish, which in turn attract larger fish, according to the DNR. To make the tree into a fish habitat, secure a cement block to the stump end of the tree with quarter-inch nylon rope. Ideally, the top of the tree will be 4 – 6 feet below the surface.
If you do not have access to your own lake or pond, contact private and public owners of lakes and ponds to see if they would be interested in creating a fish habitat. However, some fish habitat projects require a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, so check with the owner first.
You can also help local wildlife by decorating a tree as a food source. After removing all of the Christmas decorations, redecorate the tree with food items that can be eaten by birds, chipmunks and squirrels. These foods include popcorn, cranberries or pine cones covered in peanut butter. You can also hang apple rings or create a bowl from an orange that has had the juice and pulp removed, then fill it with unshelled peanuts.
The tree must be secured so it will not blow over in the wind. The best method for securing the tree is to dig a hole in which to place the trunk. The tree also can be staked for extra security. Not only will the tree provide a tasty snack when food is scarce, it will serve as a haven from the harsh winter winds.
Additional tips are available on the DNR’s Web site at http://www.dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub184.pdf or contact the DNR’s Solid Waste Management Program at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-5401.