Christmas trees ‘fly-tip’ warning

Recycling team urging residents to put trees in the right locations for collection

Friday, 7th January — By Anna Lamche

Christmas trees recycling

COLLECTING Islington’s Christmas trees is a tough but “rewarding” job, the borough’s recycling guru has said.

Eight-million Christmas trees are bought every December in the UK. And in Islington alone, the recycling teams are “collecting non-stop for more than two weeks”.

“So it’s likely [we recycle] several thousand,” said Matthew Homer, who over­sees Islington’s recycling effort. “It’s really important to recycle your Christmas trees so that they can be chipped and composted, and all that carbon gets put to good use instead of being burnt.”

He is urging all residents “to make sure they put their tree out in the right place at the right time” to ensure they are recycled this year.

To help the effort, residents should remove all decorations and leave their tree in a spot where it is easy to collect.

“Unfortunately some get dumped on street corners and at public recycling points. This is fly-tipping and it’s hard to collect these for recycling,” Mr Homer said. “It’s hard work physically, being out in all weathers, not just collecting the trees but all the other recycling, food and garden waste and rubbish, too. It’s also rewarding – our teams know they are doing their bit for the environment.”

Once the trees have been collected, they are delivered to composting sites across north London. Here they undergo a process called “In Vessel Compositing”, where the trees are left to decompose, first enclosed in vessels and then piled in rows outside.

The end product of this process is a mulch, which is delivered to local farms for use as compost.

While chopping down a Christmas tree once a year may not seem like the most environmentally friendly option, having an artificial tree can cause even more damage.

“A real tree is still a better option than using a plastic tree,” said Ali Moore, who heads communications for ReLondon, previously London’s Waste and Recycling Board. “An artificial tree only starts yielding carbon benefits in the 12th year that you use it – that’s to do with emissions associated with fossil fuel extraction, manufacturing and distribution.”

However, for those seeking the most sustainable fix, “the best option of all is to rent one”, Ms Moore said, adding: “It’s the same tree every year, so every year it comes back and it’s a bit bigger, and then they put it back in the ground and keep growing it. It’s lovely – you can even name the tree.”

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