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Time to ditch the Christmas tree. Here’s how you can recycle it.

Thurman Strickland, left, and Keith Kelly of the Solid Waste Services Department prepare to load a discarded Christmas tree into a garbage compactor on Jan. 4, 2013 in Raleigh.
Thurman Strickland, left, and Keith Kelly of the Solid Waste Services Department prepare to load a discarded Christmas tree into a garbage compactor on Jan. 4, 2013 in Raleigh. tlong@newsobserver.com

It’s time to part ways with your Christmas tree, but it could serve a new purpose if it’s recycled.

Many municipalities in the Triangle turn old Christmas trees into mulch or wood chips. Wake County mulches them into trail surfaces at parks through the “Happy Trails” program that began in 2009. Last year, the county received about 5,200 trees that produced more than 100 tons of mulch.

“We cut (a tree) down, we use it for six weeks,” said Wake County facilities manager Ray Baldwin. “You can either take it to a landfill and bury it, you can throw it in a pond and make it a fish habitat, or you can bring it to us. We’ll chip it and we’ll put it down to use as trail lay, and hopefully those nutrients will grow other trees.”

Your donated Christmas tree, minus all decorations, can become mulch for local trails through the Happy Trails program.

Residents of most cities and towns, including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, can also recycle their trees by leaving them at the curb on the designated pick-up day. Wake Forest tree collection for recycling begins Thursday. Trees will also be collected on a normal schedule for yard waste services in Clayton through January.

Undecorated trees will be accepted through Jan. 28, with the exception of New Year’s Day, at the following locations:

Wake County Convenience Centers

(seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

Site 1: 10505 Old Stage Road, Garner

Site 2: 6025 Old Smithfield Road, Apex

Site 4: 3600 Yates Mill Pond Road, Raleigh

Site 11: 5051 Wendell Blvd., Wendell

Wake County parks

(seven days a week, 8 a.m. to sunset)

Blue Jay Point County Park: 3200 Pleasant Union Church Road, Raleigh

Harris Lake County Park: 2112 County Park Drive, New Hill

Lake Crabtree County Park: 1400 Aviation Parkway, Morrisville

North Wake Landfill District Park: 9300 Deponie Drive, Raleigh

Whatever you do, don’t leave your tree sitting in your house much longer. The National Fire Protection Association says old, dried-out trees pose a threat the longer they remain inside homes.

Fire departments across the country responded to an average of 200 house fires per year from 2011-15 that started with Christmas trees. The fires led to an average of six deaths, 16 injuries and nearly $15 million in property damage each of those years, according to the NFPA.

Authorities say a Christmas tree is likely behind a house fire that killed a 68-year-old woman in Harnett County on Sunday.

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