Why did Kelly Everett arrive at North Branch Park on Thursday morning with a Christmas tree stuffed in the back of her SUV? Easy. To better the planet.
“I think it comes with environmental awareness as far as buying and just tossing, recycling and turning it into mulch,” said Everett, who set down a blanket in the back of her car to catch any stray needles from the tree.
The holidays are over but that doesn’t mean the cleanup can’t be environmentally-friendly.
Somerset County’s annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program kicked off last week and will run until Jan. 31 at both Colonial Park Gardens and North Branch Park – allowing residents to dispose of their trees while helping the environment.
“Mulch and wood chips collected from the recycled trees will be used throughout the park system to help nurture and protect plant life,” county officials said in an announcement.
Sadly, the tradition of recycling trees for an eco-friendly project at the Jersey Shore won’t be happening this year.
“The State Park Service will not collect Christmas trees for dune replenishment at Island Beach State Park this year due to the presence of a federally threatened, globally rare, state endangered plant, Seabeach amaranth,” a park advisory said.
Larry Hajna, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said Wednesday that the threatened plant which produces seeds at a high rate was found “in the area where Christmas tree placement would have taken place.” If placed there the trees could trample on Seabeach amaranth, which despite only thriving in very specific areas, have seen a resurgence over the years.
Still, there are plenty of ways to responsibly throw away your Christmas tree and some don’ts to keep in mind while you’re at it.
Firstly, do not openly burn your tree which is prohibited in New Jersey, according to state regulations.
“Christmas tree bonfires are not safe,” state officials said in an advisory. “In contrast to safe wood burning, the wood is not dry and will create more smoke than otherwise necessary. Second, many Christmas trees still have some amount of decorations on them, including tinsel, lighting and missed ornaments; none of these items should ever be burned in an open fire as they can emit a variety of toxic releases.”
Also if you’re tossing out a real tree (as opposed to artificial which many towns do not pick up), be sure not to place it in a plastic bag nor leave any decorations on before dropping it off.
While many municipalities remove trees with the rest of the trash in the first two weeks of January, residents should check with local officials or town websites before placing them on the curb. Here is a list suggested by the state of the services some counties and towns provide:
The Atlantic County Utilities Authority collects real Christmas trees with the remainder of your waste in these municipalities: Absecon, Buena Vista Township, Egg Harbor City, Hamilton Township, Linwood, Northfield, Ventnor and Weymouth Township. You can also drop trees off at the ACUA’s facility in Atlantic City.
Burlington County will provide free tree disposal at the Resource Recovery Complex in Florence and Mansfield. Residents should remove lights, ornaments and other decorations before dropping trees off.
The following Hunterdon County municipalities either provide pick-up services for Christmas trees or require residents to drop them off at nearby facilities or other locations: Alexandria, Bethlehem, Bloomsbury, Califon, Clinton, Delaware, East Amwell, Flemington, Franklin, Frenchtown, Glen Gardner, High Bridge, Holland, Lebanon Borough, Lebanon Township, Lambertville, Milford, Raritan, Readington, Tewksbury and West Amwell.
For more information visit co.hunterdon.nj.us/328/Christmas-Tree-Recycling.
Residents can drop off Christmas trees at both the county’s northern and southern recycling centers. The Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation will also collect and recycle Christmas trees between Dec. 26 and Jan. 31.
Trees can be dropped off at designated sections of the following: Cattus Island County Park, Cloverdale Farm County Park,Wells Mills County Park, Ocean County Park, Beaver Dam County Park, Jake Branch County Park, Mill Creek County Park, Enos Pond County Park, Robert J. Miller Airpark, Freedom Fields County Park, Patriots County Park, Stanley H.“Tip” Seaman County Park, A. Paul King County Park, Ocean County Golf Course at Atlantis, and Ocean County Golf Course at Forge Pond.
Cape May County Zoo
Cape May County Zoo continued its tradition this year of collecting Christmas trees for animals there to enjoy. After the last week of December, residents are advised to contact zoo officials before donating any.
The local parks department picks up trees throughout the township for about four weeks starting Jan. 1. Officials recommend residents leave trees on the curb before 8 a.m. on recycling days. Do not place trees in plastic bags, they said.
To dispose of a Christmas tree in Elizabeth you can either call 908-820-4147 to be added to a recycling pick-up list for Wednesdays or drop your tree off at the city’s recycling center. Residents should remove decorations prior to throwing away.
Franklin Lakes picks up Christmas trees throughout the borough on Thursday and next on Jan. 19. Officials said trees in plastic bags will not be picked up and trees should be placed on the curb and not on the street.
After Jan. 2, Christmas trees should be placed on the curb after 7:30 p.m. everywhere except on Washington Street (after 9 p.m.) on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They are picked up early Wednesday and Friday mornings. For more information visit hobokennj.gov/resources/waste-collection.
Jersey City will compost Christmas trees for free. Residents are asked to remove decorations from the trees and place them on the curb on Wednesday evenings between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Pick-ups will take place from Jan. 5 to Feb. 1.
To learn more click here.
Each January, Livingston’s Department of Public Works collects and recycles Christmas trees. “Simply leave your undecorated cut tree at the curb, just as you do for your recycling,” the town says.
The program runs after New Years Day through Jan. 31. Pick-ups take place during the week Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mendham’s Christmas tree pick-ups begin Monday, Jan. 9. Trees should be left on the curb by 7 a.m. and all plastic, tinsel, lights and decorations should be removed.
Christmas trees will be picked up in Montclair on recycling days throughout January, officials announced. The trees are recycled and used for compost.
If you live in Moorestown, throwing away your tree is as easy as leaving it on the curb to be gathered during regular trash and recycling days. To learn more, click here.
Trees will be collected in Morristown on the curb throughout the month of January. “Trees in bags or that have lights or ornaments on them won’t be collected,” the town said. “Wreaths with metal reinforcement in them will not be collected and should be put out on your bulk garbage collection days.”
Each week in January, Christmas trees will be collected in Morris Township. To learn more visit morristwp.com/171/Christmas-Trees.
Trees are picked up annually from Jan. 2 to Jan. 19. More information, including how to contact the local department of public works, can be found here.
New Brunswick residents are asked to leave bare Christmas trees on the curb on Tuesday nights for collection each Wednesday in January. Learn more by clicking here.
Tree collection starts in Newark on the Monday after Christmas and runs until Jan. 27. Christmas trees are picked up by crews on “yard waste” collection days. For more information visit newarknj.gov/departments/public-works.
In South Brunswick, Christmas trees are picked up with recycling starting Jan. 2 through the second week of January. Afterward, they will be picked up on garbage day. Residents should not place trees in bags.
Christmas tree curbside collection will run from the week of Jan. 3 through Feb. 4, officials there announced. Wreaths, tree stands, ornaments and other holiday decorations will not be collected.
The Toms River Parks and Recreation Department’s Christmas tree recycling program will be held at the following locations throughout January: Skyview Park (Vaughn Avenue), Riverwood Park (Riverwood Avenue), Silverton Park (Maine Street), Bayside Park (Bay Blvd., Ortley), Bey Lea Park (Tennis Court and Parking Lot), Chadwick Beach Park (Strickland Blvd.), Money Island Park (Longfellow Avenue), Winding River Park – South (Off Rt. 37 West) and Toms River Township Recycling Center (Church Road).
Following the program, which will run from Jan. 16 to Jan. 27, Christmas trees must be dropped off at the municipality’s Recycling Convenience Center at 1672 Church Road.
Woolwich Township will hold Christmas tree pickups on Jan. 10 and Jan. 17. To learn more click here.
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Ed Murray may be reached at [email protected].