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Discarded Christmas trees able to keep on giving all year 'round

James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
One of Allegheny County's collection point for used Christmas Trees is at the parking lot for the Hartwood Acres Mansion in Hampton. Dec. 31, 2012.

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Recycling facts

There are a number of Christmas tree recycling sites in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Trees must be free of all decorations, lights, bags and stands.

Among the drop-off locations:

• Allegheny Township Maintenance Building, 1169 School Road, open drop off through Jan. 31

• Boyce Park, 675 Old Frankstown Road, Plum, parking lot by the wave pool, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. through Jan. 22

• Deer Lakes Park, West Deer, in the parking lot by Veterans Shelter, drop off dusk to dawn through Jan. 19

• Harrison Hills Park, Harrison, in the parking lot at Chipmunk and Cottontail Drives, drop off dusk to dawn through Jan. 19

• Hartwood Acres, Indiana/Hampton townships, parking lot at the mansion, drop off dusk to dawn through Jan. 19

• Lower Burrell Municipal Building, 2800 Bethel S., Jan. 5 and 12, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Windstream Building, 4806 Old William Penn Highway, Murrysville, Jan. 5 and 12, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• New Kensington Memorial Park entrance, off Route 56/366. Open drop off through Jan. 31

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Jodi Weigand and Adam Brandolph
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 12:06 a.m.

Think of it as a Christmas gift to Mother Nature.

After all, a recycled Christmas tree can end up as mulch on a park trail or a fish habitat in an area lake rather than yet another item atop the landfill heap.

One tree can make an estimated 5 pounds of mulch, according to Westmoreland Cleanways, which coordinates more than a dozen recycling events in the county.

“We get between 1,700 and 2,000 trees,” said Ellen Keefe, Cleanways' executive director. “That's a lot of material that's kept out of the landfill.”

There are eight tree collection sites in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Among them is one sponsored by Burrell High School's environmental club.

They get between 50 and 75 trees over two Saturdays.

The city of Lower Burrell chips the trees into mulch.

“We do it so the trees don't end up in landfills,” sand club sponsor Amy McGrath, a Burrell High teacher. “A lot of people, years ago, used to throw the trees in Burrell Lake Park — and that was a problem.”

Officials at the Lexington, Ky.-based National Christmas Tree Association estimate 25 million to 30 million live Christmas trees are sold in the United States each year.

The trees can be used to make sand and soil erosion barriers, be sunk into private fish ponds or other bodies of water to make a refuge and feeding area for fish, or placed outside as a bird feeder and sanctuary.

The Army Corps of Engineers places whole trees in the Youghiogheny River Lake to be used as a fish habitat, Park Ranger Ronald Slezak said. Officials at Moraine State Park in Butler County do the same.

The mulch produced in Allegheny County will line trails and be used in plant beds in parks throughout the county, Downs said.

Butler County leaves them whole to be used as fish habitats in area lakes and streams.

“It's been a really successful program,” said Amie Downs, spokeswoman for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “In previous years, we collected trees in four parks. This year, we're collecting them at all of our parks.”

Dave Mazza, director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, an environmental organization with an office on Pittsburgh's South Side, said giving new life to trees is natural.

“Mother Nature's been doing it on her own for millions of years,” he said. “You use them for a purpose, recycle it and put back into the system again.”

Jodi Weigand and Adam Brandolph are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Weigand can be reached at 724-226-4702 or Brandolph can be reached at 412-391-0927 or

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