The holiday season has come to an end, and in many households across North America people are packing up their Christmas decorations to be stored away until the holiday season begins again next year. But what should one do with the remains of the Christmas tree?

The latest retail market data available from the National Christmas Tree Assn. indicates that 31.3 million real Christmas trees were purchased in 2007, compared to 17.4 million artificial trees.

According to data from the NCTA, the average artificial tree is used for six to nine years before it is discarded and ends up in a landfill where it will “remain virtually forever.”

Instead of simply putting the discarded real tree out on the curb, the association urges people to recycle them. Since a real Christmas tree is 100% biodegradable, the entire tree is recyclable.

“The most common recycling method seems to be chipping the trees for mulch,” says Becky Rasmussen, spokesperson for the NCT “In some cases, the recycler may allow participants to receive the mulch for their own personal gardens. In other cases, the organization or city may use the mulch for parks, trails and city beautification.”

Many recycling programs are coordinated on a local basis, and more communities have incorporated Christmas tree recycling into their recycling pickups.

There are other ways for people to recycle their Christmas trees as well.

“Although somewhat less common, some trees are also placed in lakes and ponds for fish habitats,” Rasmussen adds. “Christmas trees have also been used along the Gulf to aid in coastline and marshland restoration, preventing the erosion of the coasts.”

Additionally, there are many other interesting uses, according to the association’s Web site. A paper mill in Tomahawk, WI, is using ground up trees as boiler fuel for its operations. In Cook County, IL, discarded Christmas trees are used to create nesting structures for herons and egrets forced out of their native habitats.

To learn more about the National Christmas Tree Assn. or post-holiday-season uses for Christmas trees, visit www.christmastree.org.

The most common method of recycling a used Christmas tree is to turn it into mulch.

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