Recycled Christmas Trees Benefit Local Lakes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It smelled so good when it entered the house before the holidays, but by now that live tree is starting to drop its needles onto the carpet. A dried-out tree can become a fire hazard, so removing it from the house after the holidays should be a priority.

Before placing it out by the curb, consider participating in one of the many Christmas tree recycling programs in the area.

One of the largest in Ohio is conducted by the Mahoning County Green Team, which collected 99,200 pounds of trees after Christmas in 2021, according to Kim Lewis, environmental educator with the Green Team. That followed Christmas 2020 when the team collected 102,000 pounds of trees.

Instead of taking up space in landfills, those trees are provided to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which works with agencies like the Green Team to improve wildlife habitats in the area.

Once they are stripped down of any forgotten ornaments and the tinsel, the trees are later sunk beneath the waves of area waterways where they provide shelter for aquatic life.

Visitors to some local lakes and reservoirs may see the recycled trees stacked on the ice attached to concrete blocks or some other heavy material. Some may be in rows where the water has receded, for instance in Berlin Lake, where the water is drawn down to protect the docks in the winter.

Once the water returns in the spring or the ice melts, the trees end up on the bottom of the lake.

Jamey Emmert, spokesperson for ODNR, said once the water levels rise and the trees sink, no one really even knows the trees are down there.

During the spring, fish will lay their eggs in the shelter of the trees, and small fish will hide in them.

“It’s important for any animal, whether it is terrestrial or aquatic, to have the proper shelter and habitat that they need to survive comfortably and to thrive,” Emmert said.

Fishermen might take note as to where those trees are placed as well. The abundance of smaller fish that will hide around the structures can attract the larger ones.

For the past 15 years, the Green Team has provided the trees they collect for this purpose. This has included projects throughout the area including at Berlin Lake, West Branch Lake, Mosquiito Lake and Glacier Lake. Lake Milton is one of the places where the trees will be placed this year.

ODNR does not place Christmas trees on land. But, Emmert said, they encourage property owners with large amounts of property to consider placing their trees out for small animals and birds to use, similarly to fish. It gives them a place to hide for predators, a home or fresh supplies to use to build nests.

While the majority of trees collected locally become fish habitats, some may be ground into mulch.

Before giving the tree to any recycling group, be sure to remove the stands and decorations, especially lights that can tangle around equipment.

In Mahoning County, the Green Team is collecting trees for recycling from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Jan. 31 at the following locations:

  • Austintown Township Park, 6000 Kirk Road;
  • Beloit Village Park, 17910 E. Fifth St.;
  • Berlin Township Building, state Route 224;
  • Campbell City salt dome, Warhurst Road;
  • Canfield Township fire station, 5007 Messerly Road;
  • Craig Beach/Milton Township, next to the fire station, 1979 Grandview Road;
  • Ellsworth Township, fire station, state Route 45;
  • Goshen Township maintenance garage, 12649 Seacrist Road;
  • Green Township cemetery at the intersection of state Route 165 and Beaver Creek Road;
  • Jackson Township building, 10613 Mahoning Ave.;
  • Lowellville Street Department, 3 W. McGaffney;
  • New Middletown/Springfield, recycling center, 10720 Struthers Road;
  • Poland Township Road Department, 7508 Clingan Road;
  • Struthers City will pick up trees at the curb;
  • Youngstown, CCA, former South Branch Library, 1771 Market St.

Similarly, in Cortland, Republic Services is picking up Christmas trees on regular garbage pickup days, but they must be 4 feet or less in height, with the suggestion they be cut in half if taller than 4 feet.

In both Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Express Junk Removal is offering a free Christmas tree pickup and recycling service, which last year recycled 300 trees to create local fish habitats. Those interested should sign up here. Trees will be picked up Jan. 5 in Mahoning County and Jan. 6 in Trumbull County.

In Columbiana County, the Carroll-Columbiana-Harrison Solid Waste District will collect trees at six locations:

  • Butler Township on Slater Road;
  • East Liverpool, near the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Oakland Road;
  • Rogers, state Route 7;
  • Salem, Memorial Park;
  • St. Clair Township, East Liverpool Road;
  • Wellsville, village building.

Pictured at top: In this file photo provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife, recycled Christmas trees are prepared to be sunk in Berlin Lake.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.