Years ago, the close of the holiday season for some Orange County residents meant stringing the Christmas tree back on the car for one last trip--to the county landfill.
But in the last few years, cities and unincorporated areas throughout the county have begun curbside Christmas tree collection and recycling, a program so widespread that the county landfills stopped recycling trees in 1993.
Christmas tree collection began in North County cities Monday, with trees collected on normal trash pickup days through Jan. 10 in most areas.
In South County, trees in the six cities served by Solag Disposal will be picked up on regular trash days from Thursday through Jan. 17.
In unincorporated areas, most waste haulers will follow the same schedules for tree collection as in neighboring cities, said Sue Gordon, a spokeswoman for the county Integrated Waste Management.
"We're advising people in unincorporated areas to contact their local waste haulers," Gordon said.
Christmas tree recycling programs were inspired by the passage of state legislation in 1990, said Dan Batty, a Solag Disposal spokesman.
The law requires cities and counties to cut the amount of trash they send to landfills in half by 2000.
Solag will turn the trees into biodegradable chips to be used for hiking trails, weed abatement, dust control and prevention of soil erosion.
The chips will be provided free of charge to anyone who will accept at least one truckload. Solag expects to recycle about 45,000 trees, turning them into about 48 truckloads of wood chips.
"We look for every available option to keep them away from the landfills," Batty said.
For recycling, trees should be stripped of ornaments and stands.
Some cities require the trees to be cut into segments and placed in yard waste cans. Flocked trees will be collected but are not recycled.