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A second life for Christmas trees

Christmas trees lined Farmington streets this week, waiting to be chopped up and turned to mulch.

The presents have been opened, and the Christmas tree has lost some of its attraction. The ornaments have come down. Ornaments the packed up and put away.

Artificial trees can be stored in the basement, but have you ever wondered what happens to those real trees?

Tree recycling

Around Farmington, at least, Christmas trees are recycled. The tree recycling program has been in place for about 20 years, and is available for all city residents.

Starting the first full week in January, public works staff members take a city-owned wood chipper out through Farmington's neighborhoods. The route they take follows the city's garbage collection route.

Staff members drive around the designated routes and look for trees lying at the end of driveways. They collect the trees and put them into the wood chipper. The trees are ground down, and the crew moves on.

Over the course of that week, Farmington municipal services coordinator Lena Larson said, the city collects 800-900 trees from around the community. Because the trees are ground up as they are collected, the city asks that residents who place trees along the curb remove all decorations, lights and tree bags.

The city offers the tree recycling program to residents free of charge. Funding from the project comes from the city's solid waste budget.

Jen Dullum, Farmington's natural resource specialist, thinks it's a good program to have in place.

"Doing this might curb someone from tossing a tree on the side of the street or in a vacant field," Dullum said. "Hopefully we can collect as many as possible and properly dispose of them."

The bonus, Dullum said, is that real trees eventually come back in a useful, earth-friendly way -- they become compost.

"The end product is something that we can all use after it's been turned into a new product," she said.

Local product

In fact, the city of Farmington hauls most of its chipped trees just up the road to The Mulch Store, located in Empire Township.

Ken Tritz, The Mulch Store's general manager, said the chips go into piles that get to be about 12 feet high. Periodically, the piles are turned with a loader to get some air into the inner part of the piles. Eventually, those piles break down and become usable mulch. The whole process, he said, takes about nine to 12 months.

The Mulch Store also accepts Christmas trees from residents, at a cost of $1.50 per tree. The Mulch Store is located at 16445 Blaine Ave., in Empire Township. For more information, call 651-423-4401.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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