Christmas time is here and as usual there seems to be no end to decorating Christmas trees, the season’s main attraction. Every year, a large number of Christmas trees cherished in our homes for several weeks find themselves piled up in a landfill post Christmas. Instead, these abandoned trees can be recycled just like empty tins and bottles, wrapping papers and cards for serving various purposes such as composting, wood chipping and producing biomass to provide nutrients to the depleted soil. It has been estimated that only about 10% of the six million trees are recycled annually across the UK.
In order to mitigate the wastage of the abandoned trees, several councils have been offering recycling services by collecting the Christmas trees dumped in a collection point and giving re-use and composting advice to residents in those areas. Recycling your Christmas tree is a key step you can take this year towards making your celebrations green and switching to an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Natural and Artificial Christmas Trees
Besides convenience and cost, the fact of cutting down a new tree for every Christmas has been a main reason for people choosing an artificial tree. In the current economic scenario, artificial trees are more cost-effective when compared to the repeated investments on a real Christmas tree. Also, artificial trees avoid the need for watering, do not leave pine needles on the floor and they are convenient to transport. However, experts emphasize that artificial trees have greater environmental impact. Artificial trees are produced using metals and polyvinyl chloride, which is a non-biodegradable petroleum-derived plastic. Their manufacturing process also involves the use of lead as a stabilizer. As these trees are non-biodegradable and non-recyclable, they are dumped in a landfill after disposal which in turn pollutes the environment.
Real trees, on the other hand, are beneficial throughout their lifetime. A single farmed Christmas tree is capable of absorbing more than 1 ton of CO2. In addition, it has been estimated that oxygen produced by each acre of trees is sufficient for the survival of 18 people. It is necessary to employ sustainable farming techniques by planting a maximum of three seedlings near each harvested tree during the spring to ensure healthy tree supply each year. However, the repeated application of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals may pollute the environment and add to the overall environmental footprint.
How to Recycle or Reuse Christmas Trees
The following are several ways to recycle Christmas trees:
- Recycling services offered by various councils will collect the trees dropped in various collection bins.
- Christmas trees are cut into smaller pieces using a wood chipper can be used around the plants as mulch, garden paths or walkways.
- Christmas trees secured with twines, stakes or suet holders serve as a bird feeder.
- Cut pieces of Christmas trees sunk in the pond can serve as a fish feeder or a place for a fish to hide.
- The truck and branches of the Christmas trees can lessen the soil erosion across the lake and river shoreline.
- The branches of the Christmas trees can be cut to make winter wreaths or garlands to decorate the house.
- Recycled trees can be used for rebuilding the coastal wetlands.
- Chipped Xmas trees are used for generating electricity.
- Old Christmas trees can be used for rebuilding the housing structures for natural wildlife.
The National Christmas Tree Association reports that the average growing time of a real Christmas tree is 7 years and around 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the US every year. Also, there are over 4,000 recycling programs for Christmas trees in the United States, according to reports. Disposal of Christmas trees to the landfill slow down the decomposition rate due to the insufficient supply of oxygen. These trees contain valuable nutrients that can be used as compost or mulch.
Real trees are recyclable and renewable resources harvested just like pumpkins and corn. Young trees have high growth rate and photosynthesis rate and hence produce more amount of oxygen than older trees. Hence recycling is a best way to return these natural resources back to the environment.