Millions of Americans are getting ready to take down their Christmas trees as the holiday season winds down. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on efforts throughout Mississippi to put those discarded trees to good use.
The National Christmas Tree Association says Americans buy an average of 28 million real trees every year. That's about $1 billion in sales. Christmas tree recycling programs throughout Mississippi are trying to make sure the tree’s value continues long after the tinsel is taken down.
Nicole Grundel is with Jackson County, which is offering Christmas tree recycling for the eighth year.
"Individuals, when they get ready to take their tree down, can take them to the different drop-off sites we have," she says. "Our solid waste department will pick them up periodically and take them up to the landfill and process them into compost, which residents can go up and get for free too."
Similar programs will take place throughout Mississippi. Some, like in Harrison County, use the tree mulch for local and school projects. Others, including the cities of Jackson, Hattiesburg and Ridgeland - give the mulch away to residents.
Grundel’s a participant herself. She says she recycles her tree for many of the same reasons the county encourages the program.
"Just to save space in landfills -- it's the main reason we'reasking people to do it," she says. "And try and prevent people from just throwing them out in the woods and create illegal dump sites. And it just makes you feel better if you know it's getting turned into something else that people can use."
Hundreds of Mississippi's former Christmas trees will become new homes for fish. The city of Tupelo collects and gives its trees to the Army Corps of Engineers for fish habitat in Sardis Reservoir.
Trees from Hernando and Senatobia are used in Arkabutla Lake. Michael Carter is the lakes' natural resource manager. He expects to place between 300 and 500 trees.
"As these lakes ages, the structures in the bottom of them -- stumps and any kind of trees -- deteriorate," he says. "And a lot of fish need the structure to spawn on, so they need some woody structure or something out there to lay their eggs on."
Carter says the trees also provide shelter for small fish, which can turn them into great fishing holes.
Arkabulta Lake will have a fish habitat day, where they invite the public to help place the trees in the lake, in late February. For more information, visit their website at www.mvk.usace.army.mil.
Links to more information on tree recycling efforts. Most programs ask that all decorations and lights be removed, and that the trees be deposited without bags:
City of Jackson: Call 601-960-0000