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Tannenbaum, Trimmings Can Have Second Life

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RALEIGH — A glorious, fragrant tree is often the centerpiece of home decoration during the holidays -- but what to do with it afterward? Don't just lug it to the curb.

Live Christmas trees can give something back to the environment in various ways. Put it in a corner of the backyard until spring -- the birds can use it for shelter during January and February's cold days. Re-decorate the tree, this time with orange or apple slices, suet cakes or seed bells, and feed the birds as well.

Come warm weather, the tree will be dried and brown. Run it through a chipper and use it for mulch.

If you own a pond, consider dropping the tree into it as a refuge and feeding area for game fish.

Some communities like discarded trees for sand and soil erosion barriers, especially on beaches and along river beds.

Never, ever, consider burning your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. It can contribute to creosote build-up or can roll out and onto carpet or wood floor, causing a house fire.

Feel smug because you have an artificial tree? Think you are set for the ages? Guess again. The average life of an artificial tree is six years. Then the plastic tree is tossed into a landfill where it remains as is for centuries.

Also facing a long life are packing styrofoam, "peanuts," and plastic wrapping. In Wake County, the Solid Waste Management Division, Phoenix Resources, Davey Tree and Lawn Care and Waste Industries are sponsoring the annual "Christmas Wrap-Up" recycling event on Jan. 9 from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. The recycling will be held at the upper parking lot of the K-Mart shopping center at Blue Ridge Road and Western Boulevard.

Bring by discarded wrapping paper, gift boxes and bows, cardboard, cards, catalogs -- and the plastic packing materials.

You can also discard your Christmas tree (but clear off all ornaments, lights and tinsel first).

Last year, more than 13 tons of trimmings and 850 trees were recycled.