New York Christmas Tree Pickup Gets the Axe

New Yorkers who tried to keep it green during Christmas 2002 were not able to rely on the New York City Department of Sanitation (NYDS) to do it for them. When Mayor Bloomberg's administration cut glass and plastic recycling from the city budget in July, it also threw out the New York City Compost Project, which included funds for a special Christmas tree recycling pickup.

For nearly a decade, haulers have made several trips to city curbs to gather the discarded pines and take them to one of four sites to be pulverized and used as compost. Even the Rockefeller Center tree met its fate in the chipper. But this year, trees will be collected and hauled to landfills and incinerators with the rest of the garbage.

Environmental groups and Michael McMahon, chairman of the city council's Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Committee, have criticized the elimination of Christmas tree recycling from the budget. “The composting program paid for itself,” he told the New York Times. “Now we're paying to ship tens of thousands of trees in a container to landfills. That sends the wrong message.”

The city plans to resume recycling plastic this year, and glass in 2004, but the future of the compost project is not as decisive. “Due to budget constraints, the department is not recycling Christmas trees for this year,” says NYDS spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins. “As for next year, we don't know what the budget will hold.”

Not all New Yorkers have to let their trees go to the dumps. Residents with enough resolve to take trees farther than the curb can take advantage of Mulchfest 2003, the seventh annual composting event held this month and sponsored by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department.

The mulch program allows New Yorkers to drop used pines at several locations around all five boroughs.