As Christmas time approaches, they are cherished, looked up to, fawned over. As the holidays wane, they are forgotten--discarded by the quickest and easiest means. That used to be the plight of every Christmas tree.
In recent years, several recycling programs have sprung up in the San Diego area to aid the overburdened homeowner with this annual disposal chore and to turn the trees into a base for soil enrichment and landscaping projects.
With many cities and organizations accepting live trees for replanting in parks and along streets, the idea of buying living, potted trees is becoming a popular option with ecology-minded San Diegans.
Tom Del Hotal, manager of Pacific Tree farms in Chula Vista, which sells only living Christmas trees, said about 20% of the customers who come in looking for dead trees end up buying live ones. Some of the live Christmas trees will be re-used by their buyers next Christmas or planted in the yard, but others will be donated to city, church or charitable organizations as a tax write-off, Del Hotal said.
The San Diego Ecology Centre is coordinating a local tree recycling program through Jan. 10, at the Miramar landfill, 8100 Mercury St., north of Clairement Mesa Blvd. The landfill is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Patricia Gardiner, public information coordinator at the Ecology Centre, said that people began calling on Christmas Eve to ask where to dump their discarded trees. Last year more than 6,000 trees were ground into mulch at the landfill and more are expected this year, Gardiner said.
Gary Renz, disposal supervisor at the landfill, said the trees will be put into a large tree shredder called a "tub grinder" and will be used to revegetate an area of the landfill. Renz said the Christmas trees are a good nutrient, prevent erosion and help to retain water in the soil.
The cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, La Mesa and Vista and Escondido also have organized recycling projects. Locations and dates can be obtained by telephoning the Ecology Centre. In Escondido, the Wild Animal Park is accepting both cut and live trees at its service entrance, west of the main entrance on California 78. Park spokesman Tim Gorman said people wishing to donate a live tree should call the park to arrange a delivery time, but cut trees can be dropped off any time, day or night. The living trees will be replanted in the park's Urban Forest, Gorman said.
Gorman and Renz stressed that all ornaments, tinsel, nails and support stands should be removed from the trees because they could damage the tree shredder. Flocking can be removed from trees by hosing them down, Gorman said.
Other locations accepting live trees include Project Wildlife in Alpine, the Green Oak Boys and Girls Camp in Vista, Open Space, an organization located in Scripps Ranch, and the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Del Mar and La Mesa. In La Mesa, public works director Jim O'Grady said the live trees will be replanted in city parks or groomed in the city nursery.
For traditionalists who wish to discard their trees the way they always have--with the rest of the holiday trash--the ever-reliable city refuse collection service will pick up trees at regular trash collection times, said Reba Locke, a city sanitation driver. Locke said that trees 10 to 15 feet tall should be cut in half and bundled up. Flocked trees should be covered with plastic.
People who are too busy to cut and bundle or to remove tinsel and popcorn from their discards may or may not have their trees picked up, Locke said. It depends on their collector.