Delaware officials are encouraging residents to recycle their real Christmas trees, which they say helps conserve and enhance soil.
Tree mulch sequesters carbon that fertilizes the soil, and helps it retain moisture. The benefits are twofold — recycling also saves space in Delaware’s landfills.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control warns residents that it is illegal to leave or dump Christmas trees on dunes or beaches, or in state parks.
Some states have used Christmas trees to help build dunes to protect against coastal storms, such as in Ocean County’s Island Beach State Park.
However, DNREC environmental scientist Jennifer Pongratz said dead trees left on dunes smother and kill beach grass and other vegetation, and are not an effective way to help build a sand dune.
“When beach grass is damaged or destroyed, its sand trapping capability is minimized and wind erosion of the dune can occur,” she said in a statement. “In addition, dead trees and brush are fire hazards, which can lead to the destruction of established dunes and wildlife habitat.”
Each March, DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship invites volunteers to plant Cape American beach grass on Delaware’s ocean and bay beaches to help maintain dunes and beaches.
Some recycling sites accept Christmas trees at no cost, while others charge for the service. DNREC encourages calling sites in advance for more information. Residents can also call their waste hauler to find out if they offer Christmas tree pickup. Tree stands must be detached, and any decorations or fake snow removed, in advance.
Trees can be dropped off between Dec. 26 and Jan. 28. However, residents using the Polly Drummond Hill Road yard waste site in Newark must drop off their waste by Jan. 15.
More than 176,000 tons of yard waste – including Christmas trees – was recycled in 2021.