Green holidays are possible

Rachael Herbert-Varchetto
Staff Writer

Decorated Christmas trees and flashing lights look beautiful during the holiday. But residents with the question of what to do with old trees and dead lights have several options.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the average household produces about 25 percent more waste than normal, according to Dan Goldblatt, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Health.
This includes paper, electronics, and trees, to name a few items.
The Recycle Depot and the Plymouth city street department are both willing and able to take real trees for recycling. For those who do not have collection services, trees may be brought to the Recycle Depot. Tinsel, bags, lights, and anything else on the tree must be removed. Flocked trees will not be accepted.
If trees are given to the depot, they are shredded and turned into mulch, which is then used around the Recycle Depot grounds, though if residents are interested, they can request mulch for their gardens.
Mulched tree chips can be used for playgrounds, lake and river erosion prevention, and even laid for paths in forest preserves. Trees can also be placed in lakes and used as a fish habitat. There is no cost to recycle a tree with the depot.
Residents who live in the city of Plymouth can have their old live Christmas trees picked up by the street department for mulching as well.
Jim Marquardt, street department supervisor for Plymouth, stated that the trees must be undecorated.
"What we've always done is send a truck around to chip them up. We gather them up every few days for chipping," he explained.
The service is free of charge with waste pickup, and Marquardt stated that anyone is welcome to use the wood chips for their own purposes.
"There's actually a few home owners that load up pickups and put them around their flowerbeds."
For those who don't wish to deal with the hassle of keeping a tree until it dies and sheds massive amounts of pine needles, there is the option of keeping a live tree for planting.
Like other nurseries, Hensler's Nursery sells live potted Christmas trees. After the Christmas season is done, a family can nourish the tree until early spring and plant the tree on their property, creating a memory and doing their part to help the environment.
If planting the potted tree is not an appealing concept, park departments or forest preserves may be willing to take the tree for planting and beautifying public lands.
Plymouth Parks Department Maintenance Superintendent Dave Cooper stated that no one has ever donated a Christmas tree before to them.
"If someone did, we would find a place to plant the tree. We just ask that they notify us so we can set it up to do what needs to be done to place the tree in the park system and take care of it," he said.
Paper products also create waste and the majority of the time can be recycled.
According to Goldblatt, December is the largest month for waste generation. Several reasons include energy efficiency, reducing the filling of landfills, and the conservation of resources.
The depot will accept wrapping paper, but will reject paper foil wrapping, plastic wrapping paper, or any tissues.
IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) suggests reusing wrapping paper, utilizing newspaper, or magazine pages to wrap gifts. Old gift bags can be reused when going shopping for gifts as well, and bows and ribbons can be recycled the next year to save money too.
Recycling can also extend to e-waste, or old electronics after shiny new televisions and blenders replace the old ones.
Goldblatt recommends planning ahead to recycle old electronics. According to Indiana law, any retailer that sells electronics is required to accept them for recycling.
"So your Best Buys, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, all those places are going to accept old electronics for recycling," he said. "We do encourage people to keep those out of the landfill and to get those recycled."
According to Indiana code, dumping of electronics is not allowed with regular trash.
Those who wish to dispose of their old electronics should bring them to a state registered facility, such as the Recycling Depot or one of the above mentioned stores.
The depot will accept all electronics for recycling. The service works with Electronic Recyclers International out of Plainfield to sort out the two classifications of covered and noncovered electronics.
If the idea of throwing out Christmas lights doesn't sit well, IDEM recommends reusing still good lights for festivities through the year, or to spruce up a room and give it new life.
In November, Home Depot runs a Christmas light trade-in event for each string of incandescent lights turned in.
The Christmas Light source is a nonprofit that recycles all lights sent to them to fund their purchase of educational books and toys that are donated to Toys for Tots. Their program is year round.
For more information and tips on recycling green this Christmas season, check out