How to recycle or reuse your Christmas tree — from feeding goats to saving dunes

Where to go and what to do if you want to get rid of your Christmas tree without stressing sanitation workers or the environment.

Christmas trees put out in the trash

Christmas trees put out in the trash in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

It’s all right if you’re holding on to your Christmas tree a little longer this year. Joy comes from small things, and in difficult times such as these, you might want to stare at those lights a little longer.

But if you’re tired of finding pine needles all over your house and are ready to toss the tree, consider an alternative to the curb. Trees fill trash trucks faster, said Philadelphia Streets Department Deputy Commissioner Keith Warren, which means more work for sanitation workers, extra costs for the city and more waste in landfills and incinerators, adding carbon and methane emissions into the atmosphere.

Instead, give your tree a second life, Warren said.

“By recycling them and returning them to the earth, we reduce our waste costs and create a valuable resource,” he said.

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Options include composting your tree, recycling it into chips, feeding the green to goats, turning it into a barrier to protect dunes from erosion, or even cooking, using pine needles like herbs.

In Philadelphia, recycling a tree is relatively easy. Residents can dispose of their trees for free by taking them to any of the city’s six Sanitation Convenience Centers, from Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. People can also take Christmas trees to any of these 13 locations on Saturdays January 9 and January 16.

Philly Goat Project’s very popular tree-cycling event is also happening this year, amid COVID-19. The initiative helps fund a goat farm located in the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown that provides animal-assisted therapy and education. And the trees provide enough food for the rest of the year for the goats. In fact, the farms’ 15 goats will be getting even more trees this year, as the result of a partnership with the city of Philadelphia, which will be taking some of the trees received in convenience centers to the goat farm.

The bad news is that you won’t be able to feed the goats personally this time, because of COVID-19 restrictions. Yet, you can still help fund the project by donating $20 and dropping off trees at the farm at 6336 Ardleigh Street on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. or at Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center at 3850 West Ford Road on Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. to noon. You can still drive through and see the goats, if you’re lucky to get some of the few spots left for their “Safari Drive Thru.”

Several other civic organizations also offer Christmas tree recycling solutions. Passyunk Square Civic Association is accepting trees at Columbus Square Park, corner of 13th and Wharton, for a $5 donation this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. South of South is offering pickups and $5 drop-offs at 1601 Washington Avenue this weekend from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lower Moyamensing Civic Association will accept trees for a $5 donation at the South Philly High School this weekend, from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday. UC Green is taking trees for a $5-20 donation at Malcolm X Park and Clark Park this Sunday morning.

Circle Compost has a $20 pickup service with spots available only for Jan. 16.

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