Chip in and recycle Christmas trees

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 24, 2013

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thine end the city is arranging.

Sterling Heights is inviting residents to participate in its Christmas tree curbside  recycling program once the holiday season draws to a close.

While a tree may be evergreen, city officials say sending one to the landfill is hardly green for the environment, since each dead tree takes up room.

Department of Public Works Director Sal Conigliaro said the city doesn’t keep statistics on how many trees are thrown away in the city, but he said the city helped residents recycle 1,155 trees last year, and he called the tree recycling option “the environmentally correct thing to do.”

“It will be used as byproducts in other products,” he said. “We make it very simple for the residents … so that they (who) have Christmas trees, real trees, will put them out for recycling.”

Conigliaro said the trees get picked up by the city’s garbage hauler, Waste Management. Then, they are turned into wood chips and are taken to a compost site, he said.

Conigliaro said the hauler should be able to handle any trees of typical size.

“If you look at the tree farms throughout the communities, generally the Christmas trees you’re going to buy are going to be six to eight feet,” he said.

The timeline to recycle Christmas trees is from after Christmas to Jan. 17. Residents may group their trees with their usual curbside garbage by 7 a.m. on garbage pickup day. Conigliaro asked people to take off all decorations, ornaments and hooks, and to not put trees in plastic bags.

Any Christmas trees dropped off at the curb after Jan. 17 will be treated like ordinary refuse.

According to the city, this is the 21st year that the city has offered the service.

City spokesman Steve Guitar said the program is not particularly unique to Sterling Heights when compared to other cities — but it’s valuable.

“It is one of the city’s longstanding recycling programs, and as someone who does go out and cut his own tree down with the family, I find it comforting that … this renewable resource isn’t put into a landfill and is rather used for mulch,” he said.

The DPW is warning residents that the timing of Christmas and New Year’s Day will delay garbage pickup by one day around that period. That means the usual Wednesday pickups will happen Thursday, and Friday pickups will occur Saturday.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Department of Works and the tree recycling program by calling (586) 446-2440 or visiting