Give your Christmas tree a second life

December 28, 1997

Give your Christmas tree a second life


Staff Writer

Don't know what to do with that dried-out Christmas tree that will soon be making a mess of your living room?

There are numerous ways to give it a second life, from turning it into mulch, making it a bird hideout or adding a little zip to the local zoo.

Until Jan. 31, Washington County residents can drop-off their Christmas trees at five landfill and waste transfer stations throughout the county. The trees will be ground into mulch, which is sold beginning in the Spring, said Washington County recycling programs coordinator Harvey Hoch.


City residents will be able to place Christmas trees at the curb for pick-up. Trees will be collected in four different times in town through Jan 9.

Homeowners typically have to pay to have yard waste shredded at the rubble landfill on Kemps Mill Road, but county officials offer to shred Christmas trees for free.

Hoch said one of the reasons it is free is because it is one of the few ways to get rid of a tree. Local residents have been banned from dumping trees and other yard wastes in the landfill since 1995, said Hoch.

If you just can't bear parting with that perfectly shaped tree, perhaps a sparrow might like it for nighttime cover.

Laying a tree on its side in the backyard provides birds with a place to roost at night or to seek cover from predators, said John Haley of the Wild Bird Co. in Frederick.

Several trees can be piled together for a "natural brush pile" which is also popular among birds, said Haley, who sells bird food products and native plants at his shop on Baltimore National Pike.

"Most of the time, the needles will stay on the tree through winter, so they can provide shelter up until spring," said Haley.

Other animals, such as deer, will sometimes browse on the trees, but usually as a last resort, said Haley.

At the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Thurmont, a tree can be a nice Chirstmas present. Bobcats like hiding in them, grizzly bears play with them and fallow deer like to spar with them, according to Whitney Hahn, spokeswoman for the zoo at 13019 Catoctin Furnace Road.

"Coniferous trees typically used at Christmas are perfect enrichment tools for many animals," said Hahn.

After the zoo has collected enough trees for the animals, the rest are converted to mulch for the 35-acre preserve's many plantings, said Hahn.

Hahan said homeowners need to make sure that the trees are free of chemical sprays, tinsel, ornaments, hooks and other objects because they can be harmful to wildlife.

Homeowners can drop off trees at the zoo's front iron gates anytime until Jan. 15.

Hoch said it is also important to make sure trees dropped off at the county waste stations be free of any ornaments or spikes or nails used to prop-up trees. The debris can damage shredding machines, Hoch said.

"Believe it or not, we have actually seen a fully-decorated tree," said Hoch.

The recycling effort is usually popular, resulting in thousands of cubic yards of mulch. The material is sold for about $4 a cubic yard, said Hoch.

Several local department store managers who sold trees said the the ones that were not sold were shredded for mulch. At the Lowe's store on Wesel Boulevard, about 2,000 trees were sold this year, said co-manager Tom Wynkoop.

The Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America sold all 678 of its trees in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Wesel Boulevard, said Bob Holsinger, district executive.

Last year, the remaining trees were piled together and given away to the needy, said Holsinger.

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