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Post-Christmas Cleanup: Save the Gift Wrap, Recycle the Tree

12/27/2010 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Christmas, holidays, Earth911, Christmas Tree

Every Christmas I coach my kids in careful unwrapping and save the wrapping paper to use the next year. It saves me money and landfill impact, but it can be a little bit weird. Last week I wrapped a present for my partner, Pieter, in a big sheet of wrapping paper before I noticed that the paper had something written on it: Merry Christmas to my ex-husband, with love from me. I rewrapped Pieter’s gift—in another piece of old paper. Reusing Christmas wrap is still a worthy endeavor, even if it brings up ghosts of Christmases past.

Christmas tree recycling 
Find out how to recycle your Christmas Tree with Earth911's Treecycling Directory. Photo By if winter ends/Courtesy Flickr. 

The holidays can be a garbage generator for many families, and reusing gift wrap is one good way to keep it clean. As you fold and put away the gift wrap, it’s also time to think about how you’ll discard your Christmas tree. I’ve already dragged ours to the community’s compost bin, and you can find out where to recycle yours through Earth911’s Treecycling Directory. Earth911 offers several other great tips for recycling your tree.

1. In cities such as New York and Denver, Christmas trees are mulched, and the remaining material is made available to the public free of charge.

2. Most Christmas tree recycling programs only last a few weeks into January—so start start packing up the lights and ornaments and get your tree ready to recycle sooner than later.

3. Your tree can only be recycled if it’s stripped down to its original form, which means removing all the lights, ornaments and tinsel.

4. If you’re recycling the tree in a curbside program, make sure it doesn’t block your other bins because there are typically different trucks that haul each product. Cut larger trees in half to make them easier during transport.

5. Boy Scouts troops across the U.S. will collect trees from your curb and take them to a recycler for you. In most cases, this is a fundraiser for the troop, so the money you’re spending will cover gas costs and support Boy Scout programs.

6. Instead of sending your tree to a composter, chop it into firewood and kindling. A standard Noble Fir tree can be turned into more than 13 pounds of firewood to keep you warm this winter. The needles can be used for art projects or as mulch in your backyard.

7. If you have a pond or other body of water in the backyard, tossing in your Christmas tree actually helps the fish by providing shelter and nutrients. Many communities have drop-off locations near bodies of water for this purpose. If you do not officially own the body of water (such as beach-front properties), you must get permission before disposing of your tree in this way.

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