Weather Updates

Yule feel greener by properly  disposing of that Christmas tree

A Christmas tree lies parkway Deering Bay Drive Wednesday Dec. 28 2010 Tall Grass subdivisiNaperville. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

A Christmas tree lies on the parkway of Deering Bay Drive on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2010, in the Tall Grass subdivision in Naperville. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 42246725
tmspicid: 8658642
fileheaderid: 3909974

Updated: January 29, 2013 6:39AM

This is the week when garbage bins typically groan a bit under the weight of Christmas excess, but there are ways to keep the strain down.

A variety of materials thrown away after the holiday can be discarded in more environmentally benign ways than an unceremonious one-way trip to the landfill. From composting trees to passing items along to have valuable metals inside them gleaned, the array of options merits a look.

That evergreen that’s beginning to shed lots of needles onto the living room floor might be a good place to start.

“Those are the biggies: the Christmas trees, and your real wreath, and the roping. Willowbrook Wildlife Center wants those,” said Kay McKeen, founder and executive director of School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE) in Glen Ellyn.

All lights, ornaments, tinsel, bows and wire need to removed before the green goods are sent off to serve as habitat for the wildlife center’s creatures.

“We need them delivered. We don’t do pickup,” Willowbrook employee Stephanie Cosby said.

The center is at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Even easier is dragging the tired old tree to the curb to await municipal pickup. You can check with your local city or village to see about pickup dates.

McKeen had an additional suggestion, perhaps the greenest of them all: put the tree in the backyard, decorated again, only this time with pine cones that have been smeared with peanut butter. The natural ornaments will serve as wildlife food, and the frozen ground won’t be harmed by the trees, McKeen said.

Once the pine cones and peanut butter have been thoroughly nibbled, the trees will continue to provide shelter and a wintertime windbreak for animals.

Gift wrap is readily recyclable as well, she noted, even that which has touches of foil, but ribbon and decorations must be removed.

Electronics also can be recycled with ease. Naperville city spokeswoman Kate Houlihan said the recent move of the city’s recycling drop-off site around the corner at the city’s Public Works center brought added convenience for those who need to dispose of electronic goods, which have been banned from Illinois landfills since the beginning of the year. Kane County also has regular electronic recycling dates. Watch for the dates in the newspaper.

Also recyclable in the same spot are most varieties of string lights.

“There’s copper in there, so you want to make sure to recycle them,” McKeen said.

Last year, she said, the 28 sites in DuPage County took in nearly 45,000 pounds of holiday lights.

“That’s several garbage truckloads,” McKeen said, adding that more drop-off sites have been added this year.

Naperville’s drop-off program, also run from the Public Works campus, tallied about 8,800 pounds between Nov. 21, 2011, and March 30, 2012, Houlihan said.

McKeen also recommends removing the hooks and collars attached to ornaments when fragile ones break and must be tossed. The scrap metal can be kept in a bucket with other metallic odds and ends, she said, until there is enough to send off for processing.

Even better than recycling, which requires energy and resources, is the hand-me-down principle. Goodwill can use unbroken ornaments that no longer find their way to the tree, McKeen said, and SCARCE redistributes toys, books and many other goods for reuse. If the children are straightening up their toy closets to make room for new items, those old Monopoly games and jigsaw puzzles can be checked for missing parts and then packed up for donating.

“The kids need to do the puzzle one more time, to make sure all the pieces are there, and then tape the box closed on all four sides,” McKeen said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.