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After New Year’s Christmas Tree Disposal; the Travesty of Dishonest Garbage Disposal Companies

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Christmas trees going in the garbage

This morning I heard the garbage truck roll down our block. Our garbage man was picking up everyone’s trash. This is also the week that Christmas trees are supposed to be left out on the block to be collected. I saw the garbage man throw the Christmas trees in the same truck as the rest of the trash and rushed out with camera in hand. I managed to snap this single shot of the trash man throwing the Christmas trees in the back of his truck with all the rest of the garbage.

In my community residents are required to leave out the Christmas trees and they are taken for free if they are completely free of tinsel and other decorations. I called the Waste Management Company at 10 AM this morning to confirm this. I spoke with a lady named Tamika. She said that these trees are supposed to be recycled into compost and are usually picked up on a third run separate from the trash or standard recycling runs so that the trees will get delivered to their proper location for processing. This is what the company is TELLING the public. Confirmed by this telephone call.

However, do you see the problem here? Our trash man is not doing a third run. He is throwing it in with all the other trash. You cannot tell me that this is going to be separated later at the dumping location – how would you sort out all that clutter? My point is that the corporate Waste Management firm is lying to the public about where the trees are going.

This makes me angry. Why, you ask? Because millions of trees are dumped in landfills or are illegally dumped on public property annually according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While it seems like a small problem at first glance, in my opinion it is a huge problem for the environment.

#1 – the tree is being wasted when it could be reused for mulch or compost – and that would be a very smart use of a product from a Christmas tree farm which keeps it out of the landfill.

#2 – our landfills are filling up rapidly. As space gets more and more crowded, we humans begin to face a larger and larger problem – where is our garbage going to go when there is no more space?

Our environment is suffering because of corporate greed and we need corporations and communities to work together honestly, not dishonestly. Why is the Waste Management Company lying to us?

Communities can definitely reduce Christmas tree waste. For example, the simplest method is to grind the trees into mulch. This mulch can be reused on city and community property or given to residents. From a gardening perspective, mulching returns nutrients into the soil. It also helps conserve moisture and protect plants against winter freeze.

If you want to learn more about holiday tree source reduction, go to the EPA’s website – or visit the National Christmas Tree Association’s site at

There may be ways you can get YOUR city to help improve the Christmas Tree landfill issue. Please contact your local city administration and ask if the city would consider a “brush pick up” after the holidays? They can pick up all those discarded pine trees and turn them into mulch for the local residents. Christmas trees can be the gift that keeps on giving if the trees are turned into mulch or ground into compost.

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  1. Understatement Patricia – it simply MAKES ME ANGRY. We are trying so hard to do good for the environment in our city with all our various efforts and this stuff keeps happening.

    The corporations do not care.


  2. Shawna- what did the waste management customer service rep say she was going to do? Send this up to the supervisor? I had an incident in my neighborhood with recycling. Cardboard is supposed to be recycled if it is broken down and tied up in a nice little package. I observed the recycling crew taking the cardboard and sliding it under my trash bag. The supervisor came out, saw that it met their criteria for recycling and took it. That happened two more times.

    After the second time, the supervisor had to come out, they always picked up my cardboard. I don't know if they were picking up everyone's cardboard, but they got mine.

    Although I will add, here people are really lazy as to when they put out their tree for recycling. Some throw it out way after the recycling run for the trees had been completed and that left WM no choice but to pick it up as trash.

  3. I was talking to the general manager of our local garbage company about recycling and he said some of their trucks have more than one compartment in the back where recyclables are dumped. I didn't know that and I'm sure a lot of others don't realize it either because you can't tell just from looking at the side view of the truck. Was that tree in with a bunch of other garbage? I can't tell from your photo, if not, maybe it was being dumped into a separate compartment for recyclables.

    The GM of our garbage collection company gave me a better understanding of what they do and he seemed sincerely honest about his concerns for the environment and about what his company is doing to be better stewards of the land.

  4. Maria – WM said nothing. I did not ask for them to solve this problem immediately. I want to first investigate the details and go to my city. You are heard better if more are aware of the situation and I think that's important. I'm sending them a copy of this post later today.

    And TC – there is no separate compartment. That truck had garbage and trees mixed together in its load and simply dumped it in the back. No sorting.


  5. Perhaps the tree recycling program ran from Dec 26th through Jan 3rd? Is there a link to your WM's tree recycling program?

  6. And a further option is to have a living tree in a pot, that you can just leave outside for the rest of the year. I bought a very small one (about 2ft) about 12 years ago and with a bit of neglect (i.e. not feeding it too much) it's now about 8ft. Next Xmas I can either give it to someone who wants a big tree, or use it as a cut tree – or trim it up with fat balls, peanut butter smothered pine cones and strung together monkey nut tinsel for a treat for the birds. And voila – no waste!

  7. To the anonymous person who first left a comment above – – Christmas tree collection in my city is through the first two weeks of January.

    After that the trees require a sticker and will be thrown out in the landfill for certain.

    And for Tina and the last Anonymous post – excellent ideas – thank you!


  8. WOW – this story was just picked up by

    Thank you TreeHugger for picking up my story on Christmas tree recycling in my community. I hope it inspires more people to follow through in their communities and make a difference regarding the wasteful practice of throwing away MILLIONS of trees every year in our landfills.

    Here's a link to the TreeHugger post –

  9. I've had issues with WM too. You state taht a 3rd truck should get trees, but I don't even get the 2nd truck for recycles. I sort, and stack in my handy recycle bin, and ALL of my trach goes into the back of the same truck. WM is going to hear from me – supervisor or no!

  10. Shawna, I know that you live in the 'burbs and dont have a choice as I do for trash pickup. I had once used WM for my pick up service, after inquiring about recycle pick up, they responded oh yes we do that! I waited two weeks for a bin that never showed up, I then cancelled, signed with a local company that does pickup yard waste, and recyclables, and reguler trash, although they dont do christmas trees, we have places around town where the park district grinds them up for free mulch. Talk to your local govt.and ask what the heck is going on! they usually get a kick back from tipping fees. So be cautious, John

  11. I would be hopping mad too! Our city is very good about collecting our Christmas trees and composting them or making them into mulch as they are supposed to do. They also collect yard waste separately and compost that too. Everything that is composted or made into mulch is then available for free pick-up by city residents

  12. Did anyone stop to think that artificial trees (that can last decades) are a better alternative than killing a live tree and possibly having it dumped in a landfill? Just my two cents.

  13. That is shocking Shawna but doesn't surprise me one little bit. Many years ago here in Dublin a lady I garden for followed the 'green waste' truck to the landfill site! Whatever about this (plastic, paper and glass etc) getting dumped into landfill when Ireland feels it's much better to send our plastics to 'CHINA@ ?? this act of dumping the Christmas tree in amongst food waste etc is pure laziness.

    BTW a very happy Nollaig na mBan to you and all my female USA networking buddies.x.x

  14. Hi Shawna,

    We have Allied now and they did have a separate truck yesterday picking up all of the Christmas trees. Somebody at Waste is not following directions!


  15. Wonderful post to bring awareness to recycling and the companies we pay to haul our waste.

    I do know some trucks as pointed out in an earlier post do have compartments within the trucks that can separate and most all waste reclamation facilities have hand sorters, although in your case I am unsure and I know you will investigate and I look forward to hearing the out come.

    What concerns me is the trash I see flying out of the WM trucks when they dump the trash cans and again once the trucks pick up speed going down the Highway that is truly a shame.Just follow a trash truck for a mile or so I advise not to follow one to close for the safety of you car.

    As for Green Wast Recycling all gardeners need to be aware that not all Compost is “Toxic Free” and is not good to be used in your gardens.

    Here is an older report but one that points out issues that need to be addressed. As you know I do package and sell manure tea from my grass fed livestock a true “Closed Loop” soil source. So you'll understand why I am always stating not all manure is Toxic Free!

    However for this post I ask that you pay close attention to the last paragraph on the testing that was done on 3 of California's largest green waste recycling plants.

    There is No testing required for toxic levels of pesticides or herbicides. It's NOT monitored nor is there required testing for Toxins in green waste reclamation facilities by the EPA! This should be a concern to all of us that garden especially when planting edibles

    I believe we all need to support a chemical free environment by bringing awareness to these issues and sharing with others on how simple life style changes can make a big difference to our environment!

    I always enjoy your posts and Enjoy growing Green with you…


  16. its going to a landfill so its not all that bad. the tree will naturally break down in the earth.

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