Henderson shifts to tree-recycling season

Tara Pike-Nordstrom and Rachel Lewison drove to Lowe’s the day after Christmas, then put up sandwich board signs encouraging people to drop off their Christmas trees for recycling.

Lewison said she was sad to see unsold fresh-cut Christmas trees in one of Lowe’s dumpsters.

“They were fresh; that means that they were basically grown just to be thrown away, so they weren’t being utilized,” she said.

Pike-Nordstrom, manager and sustainability coordinator of UNLV’s Rebel Recycling Program, and Lewison, Southern Nevada recycling coordinator at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, are co-chairwomen of the Southern Nevada Christmas Tree Recycling Committee. It’s a coalition of more than 30 organizations, municipalities and businesses that aim to keep Christmas trees out of landfills.

Trees can be dropped off at more than 30 unstaffed locations across the Las Vegas Valley for free thorough Jan. 15.

Henderson has been part of the valley-wide Christmas Tree Recycling Program since December 2004.

Henderson started with four drop-off locations in 2004 and now has eight, said Kathleen Richards, the city’s senior public information officer.

“In 13 years we have recycled over 25,000 holiday trees,” she said.

This season, Henderson officials hope to recycle 4,500 trees, which would top last year’s record of 4,400.

A chipper turns the trees into mulch that’s used in Henderson parks. The mulch is offered for free to Henderson residents at Pecos Legacy and Acacia parks.

Valley-wide, mulch is used to reduce dust levels and conserve water. As mulch degrades, it provides nutrition for the landscape, Pike-Nordstrom said.

The Christmas Tree Recycling Program typically collects 15,500 trees across the valley per year, Pike-Nordstrom said, and the biggest year saw 20,205 trees.

About 63 percent of Christmas trees in the Las Vegas Valley are recycled, Pike-Nordstrom said, citing Republic Services data.

“We think we are doing pretty good at getting most of the trees … not everybody is going to put their tree back into their car and bring it to a drop site,” she said.

Gilbert Gutierrez, director of operations at Terra Firma Organics, which turns organic waste into mulch and other garden products, said his company started recycling picked-up Christmas trees Jan. 3.

About 70 percent of Terra Firma Organics’ recycled material comes from palm trees, and the company started participating in recycling of Christmas trees only this year, Gutierrez said.

“There’s a need in composting (Christmas trees), making them full-circle,” he said.

After the trees are ground up, mulch is put in piles, which have to heat up to at least 131 degrees to reduce pathogen and thus get rid of the bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. The trees heat naturally as part of the composting process.

“You have a sentimental value with your tree,” Pike-Nordstrom said. “To me, to take your tree down and put it at the curb, it just feels wrong. I would think that it would feel so much better to realize that you are giving your community the gift of mulch by dropping off your tree.”

Contact Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@viewnews.com or 702-383-0496. Follow @DariaSokolova77 on Twitter.

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