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Single-use Christmas trees turn into multi-use wood chips

Thousands of evergreens need to be disposed of

Live Christmas collected curbside by the City of Brookfield are run through a horizontal grinder that reduces evergreens to pine needle mulch at the City's Recycling Center.

Live Christmas collected curbside by the City of Brookfield are run through a horizontal grinder that reduces evergreens to pine needle mulch at the City's Recycling Center. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Jan. 15, 2013

Christmas trees prove to be gifts that keep on giving, thanks to the city's yearly Christmas tree recycling program.

Brookfield's Department of Public Works began Christmas tree pickups Jan. 7 and had collected more than 1,000 trees in the first 24 hours.

Trees are taken to the Recycling Center, 19700 Riverview Drive, to be turned into wood chips.

Richard Paul, Sr., assistant superintendent of streets, said there are many uses for the wood chips, including mulch, compost and boiler fuel.

"We end up having more wood than the city can use," Paul said. "We give it away to landscapers for free. They can bring their truck, and we'll load it for them."

Without the recycling program, the trees would end up in a landfill.

The city is using a new, more efficient horizontal grinder this year, an upgrade from the tub grinder used in the past.

"The horizontal grinder works much better than the tub grinder, especially with the Christmas trees," Paul said. "The new grinder can handle logs up to 30 inches in diameter. The tub grinder couldn't do that."

Horizontal grinders also are safer than tub grinders, generally not throwing objects as high or far into the open area around it as tub grinders.

The trees are dumped into a tub by a loader, self-loaded into the grinder, finely chopped and discharged on a conveyor belt.

As the wood chips fall off the conveyor belt into a pile, the fresh smell of pine fills the air.

"We could bag this up and sell it as air freshener," Paul joked.

The city asks that all decorations are removed before trees are placed on the curb, but ornaments sometimes make their way to the yard.

"By the end of the pickup, we've found 200 ornaments," Paul said. "If they're personalized, we try to get them back to their owner."

The city ground more than 2,300 Christmas trees in 2011.

Christmas trees left on the curb will be picked up through Jan. 21.

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