Where do the trees go?

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Trees on Fifth Avenue

Trees on Fifth Avenue

While in NYC this week I saw countless discarded Christmas trees lining the curbsides of various burroughs. After all, it was the week after New Year and the holiday season was officially over. I wondered what the life path of local Christmas trees for the New York City region might be. From what I can tell, the trees come from a wide region – from North Carolina to Quebec to Vermont. When I was in the city in early December, many vendors were selling trees starting at $50, so I’m assuming that anyone who came in from North Carolina or Vermont must be selling premium goods of some kind to make the long trip worth their while. I’ve seen articles in local newspapers stating that the ‘right’ tree can sell for as much as $900.

After completing their service as holiday decorations, the trees are discarded. New York City started a recycling program some time ago that allows for curbside pick-up (assuming the trees have been stripped of decorations and aren’t in plastic sacks), and also sponsors a MulchFest which invites city residents to bring their trees to designated park areas for mulching into compost to be used in city parks. Thus, the trees of Quebec, Vermont, upstate New York, even North Carolina, can be found at the base of new plants in Central Park and elsewhere. Residents are also invited to cut the branches from their trees and use them to cover the roots of the trees that line the city streets. This explains all the little sidewalk squares of earth throughout the city that are festively covered in branches – which I suppose are picked up as trash once winter has ended.

As for us, we live in the French countryside. No MulchFest or curbside pick-up – if you want to get rid of a tree here, you either take it down to the local déchetterie (recycling lot, usually no more than 10 minutes away from any village), or you do what we do: Set the tree upright in a back corner of the garden, wait a few months, and then chop it up and use it for heat.

Trees in Lower Manhattan.Unfortunately, most of these trees are headed for the dump because they are wrapped in plastic

Trees in Lower Manhattan.
Unfortunately, most of these trees are headed for the dump because they are wrapped in plastic

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