O Tannenbaum

O Tannenbaum

That dying Christmas tree you've left curbside may soon be reborn as mulch — or a sunken habitat for small fish

URBANA — After the presents are opened, the lights are unplugged and the ornaments go back in their boxes, the Christmas trees that once proudly wore all the trimmings face some grim fates.

Over the next few weeks, area officials expect the evergreens to come in by the hundreds to be chopped, sunk or buried. Some cities will pick them up curbside to be recycled.

Curbside pickup is scheduled to begin Monday in Champaign and run through Jan. 17.

Trees picked up at curbside in Champaign-Urbana will end up at the Landscape Recycling Center in Urbana, where they'll be stockpiled for about a month and then chopped up and resold as mulch in the spring.

Landscape Recycling Center Supervisor Kevin Sanderson said the acidic pine mulch is particularly good for azaleas, rhododendron and blueberries.

The mulch is seasonal, and it sells for $15 per yard.

"Regular customers know when we have it for sale," Sanderson said. "They come in early spring and pick it up."

It's hard to tell how many trees will come in, Sanderson said, but he guessed it will be around 500. He said it makes about 200 cubic yards of mulch.

Residents should check the Champaign city website to find out their collection day. They will need to make sure the tree is free of any decorations, garland, tinsel or tree stands before they put it out on the curb. Any extra items left on the tree could contaminate the mulch.

Danville has already started picking up trees and will collect them through the end of this week too, said public works operations manager Bob Scott. Residents can put the trees at the curb on their regular pickup day.

"Just set them out and we'll pick them up," Scott said.

Trees are mulched in Danville, too. The city will pick up flocked trees, but they end up in a landfill.

You might not guess it, but trees make great fish habitats. The Champaign County Forest Preserve for years has been submerging Christmas trees in its lakes, where it provides shelter for smaller fish trying to avoid threats.

Forest Preserve spokeswoman Lisa Sprinkle said participants can drop off their trees any time at designated dropoff sites at the Middle Fork River forest preserve and at the Lake of the Woods in Mahomet. They can be dropped off at Homer Lake between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

"It's just a different area for the fish," she said.

Many uses for trees

As many as 30 million live trees were sold for Christmas in the United States, and agencies around the country have found creative uses for them after they've served their holiday purpose. Here are some of them, according to the National Christmas Tree Association:

Salmon spawning

In a program called Christmas for Coho, an Oregon conservation group will submerge trees in the Necanicum River where they will provide protection and food for baby Coho salmon.

Dune restoration

Organizers will lay Christmas trees on New Jersey beaches to restore sand dunes that were decimated after Hurricane Sandy. The trees and beach fences catch blowing sand, which grows into dunes.

Bird habitats

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County will used donated Christmas trees to create nesting structures at its Baker's Lake Nature Reserve for herons and egrets forced out of their native habitats by development.

Electric power

Trees dropped off in Burlington, Vt., will be chipped and burned to generate electricity for thousands of homes in that area.

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