How and why to recycle your Christmas tree for coastal restoration

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When you take down your Christmas tree on Jan. 6 — the day we transition from red and green to purple, green and gold — set it aside. It can be turned into a gift to Louisiana’s fragile coastline.

The city’s solid waste contractors will be collecting the trees for recycling between Jan. 10 and Jan. 15. Trees will be picked up on the regularly scheduled trash day during the week of Jan. 10, the Mayor’s Office has announced.

Here’s how to recycle your tree:

  • Remove the tree stand and all ornaments, tinsel, lights and other decorations.
  • Place it curbside before 5 a.m. on your trash collection day between Jan. 10-15.

Only completely bare natural trees can be used to create wetland habitats. If your tree is flocked or artificial, it will go to landfill. So will any tree placed in bag a as well as trees with any remaining bling.

In addition, trees are not to be placed on the neutral ground, as this delays the collection process.

Trash collection contractors will work with the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana National Guard in a collaborative effort to collect, sort, bundle and distribute the trees. The program is funded by the Office of Resilience and Sustainability.

The bundled trees are dropped by helicopter into selected coastal zones. Then workers arrive by boat to move them into their final position.

In early 2021, more than 5,000 Christmas trees were collected in Orleans Parish after the Christmas season and airlifted by the Louisiana National Guard into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. There they were used to create new marsh habitat.

The Christmas tree recycling and coastal restoration program was adopted from the Netherlands by Louisiana State University researchers in the late 1980s and has been in place in Louisiana since 1990.

Over the course of the city’s Christmas tree recycling program, the trees have restored an area of marsh equal to almost 200 football fields, the Mayor’s Office states. Instead of taking up landfill space, the trees create important habitat for birds, fish, crabs, crawfish and shrimp.

The trees also fortify the marshes, prevent waves from further eroding the soil and allow aquatic plants to grow more easily, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Studies have shown that Christmas trees can build up an inch of sediment every two years.

Residents seeking more information should call 311.

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