January 27, 2022

Undecking the halls

How to dispose of Christmas trees, holiday waste

Kevin Conlon/city editor

The city of Cortland’s tub grinder sits ide on a rainy Christmas afternoon. It will soon be put to work to recycle Christmas trees to create mulch.

Merrymaking’s aftermath — the dry tree, the limp wreaths, the cardboard boxes, the tinsel everywhere — all need to find a permanent after-holiday home at the city composting facility, the recycling center or the county landfill.

For the Christmas tree, that’s in the Cortland Public Works Department mulcher.

All Cortland County residents can drop off their Christmas tree for free at the South Franklin Street yard waste facility, city Deputy Public Works Superintendent Alan Ricotelli said last week. Floral and pine bough wreaths, as well as poinsettias, can also be dropped off for free, as long as they are stripped of metal wires and plastic pots.

“Make sure that all the ornaments are off the tree,” Ricotelli said, as metal can hurt the city’s tub grinder.

Cortland city residents can put out their undecorated tree and greenery with the garbage for free pickup Jan. 10 and 14, he said.

Leach’s Custom Trash Services will also pick up customers’ trees on regular trash days, owner Gary Leach said. The workers separate the trees at its facility and then take them to the city yard waste facility.

“It’s a courtesy and we will recycle them,” Leach said.

The Cortland County Landfill does not accept Christmas trees or plant waste, according to its website.

If the holidays brought new cell phones, televisions or computers, the old models can be recycled at the Cortland County recycling center at 137 1/2 Pendleton St., Recycling Coordinator Chris Spadolini said.

But when it comes to holiday packing materials, much cannot be recycled, Spadolini said.

“One of the most common things is Styrofoam,” he said. “We get mountains of that here and we have to get rid of it ourselves.”

Many plastics can’t be recycled either, because there isn’t a market to buy and reuse them, Spadolini said. This includes hard plastics, such as is found in children’s toys and 5-gallon buckets.

Plastics labeled with the numbers 3 to 7 inside the chasing-arrow recycling logo also cannot be accepted, he said.

Bubble wrap, plastic bags and wrapping paper with a foil, glossy or metallic finish, can’t be recycled at the center either, Spadolini said.

“Regular paper with a printed design, that is recyclable,” he added. So are a traditional thrifty wrapping: newspaper comics.