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What's the best way to dispose of a Christmas tree?

Don't burn your tree outside! It's better to dissect it and re-use in the yard, if you can. Better yet, ecology experts say, don't buy one at all: rent instead.

Statewide, recycling for Washington State has reached the highest rates ever.  The biggest areas in which people are doing more are in reusing construction materials and composting food waste…and then there are those pesky Christmas trees.

Recycling rates have grown to 49% statewide – higher than ever. It’s an increase of 14% more than the prior year. 

But even though we’ve all become great at composting, many people still aren’t sure how to dispose of their Christmas trees.

“The best thing would be to chop it up in mulch and use it on your own yard,” says Laurie Davies, with the state Department of Ecology.

She says you don’t have to rent expensive gear such as a chipper to do this. You can just use hedge trimmers to chop your tree up into small pieces, then use the branches around the yard as ground cover, to prevent weeds from spreading.

“Otherwise, I would find out what your local solid waste system does and put it out with the yard waste. Most of them have a pick up time with the yard waste where they pick up the trees and then they compost them.”

She says it’s true that the largest composting plants in the state are starting to max out, so Ecology would prefer that people reduce their waste or recycle it on site.

Officials also say don’t burn your tree if you can help it, unless you have an EPA certified stove and plenty of time to let the wood cure until it’s dry enough to use as fire wood. Outdoor burning causes air pollution and isn’t the best use of the nutrients in the tree.

Next year, you could also consider using a live potted tree or even renting one.

A non-profit in Everett, the Adopt A Stream Foundation,  is providing that service now, for about $20 – less than average for a tree that’s fresh cut.  

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