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Discarded Christmas trees keep on giving all year

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 Christmas trees

Residents can leave ornament-free Christmas trees at the following locations.

Allegheny County

• Trees can be dropped off from dawn until dusk at any of the county's nine parks through Jan. 19.

Beaver County

• Trees can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the Beaver County Recycling Center in Bradys Run Park.

Butler County

• Stirling Landscaping & Nursery Center, 840 Mercer Road, Butler. Drop-off is free until Jan. 31. A pickup service is available for a fee.

• Seneca Landfill, 421 Hartmann Road, Evans City. Trees can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays. The cost is $5 per tree.

• Slippery Rock Community Park, 320 N. Main St. Trees are accepted through Jan. 3.

For more information on Butler County's Christmas tree recycling program, call the Butler County Department of Recycling & Waste Management at 724-284-5305.

Westmoreland County

• Trees can be dropped off at 18 locations throughout the county. For a list of locations, visit www.westmorelandcleanways.org or call 724-836-4129.

Source: Tribune-Review research

'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.

Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 10:24 p.m.
 

Thousands of Christmas trees are serving new uses through recycling once they've given their all for Western Pennsylvania holiday traditions.

“Mother Nature's been doing it on her own for millions of years,” said Dave Mazza, director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, an environmental organization with an office on the South Side.

Allegheny County mulches Christmas trees and uses them in its parks; Butler and Fayette counties leave them whole and anchor them in area lakes and streams to improve fish habitats.

“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.” The county collected about 600 trees last year, she said.

Mulch produced in Allegheny County will line trails and aid plant beds in parks throughout the county, Downs said.

Officials at the Lexington, Ky.-based National Christmas Tree Association estimate 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees are sold in the United States each year. They say one live Christmas tree makes about 5 pounds of mulch, which can help absorb unwanted chemicals and improve soil quality.

Westmoreland County uses mulch from Christmas trees to line walking trails in Hempfield Park, and in Beaver County, mulch from about 100 chipped Christmas trees is sold to residents in the spring.

“It's a little money generator,” said Matt Marsilio, a technician at the Beaver County Recycling Center in Bradys Run Park. “It's what we're all about. We let nothing go to waste.”

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

A portion of the mulch that comes from trees dropped off at city recycling centers will be used in flower beds at parks throughout Pittsburgh, said Bill Klimovich, assistant director of Pittsburgh Public Works' Bureau of Environmental Services.

Mazza said giving new life to trees is natural.

“It's basically just like recycling. You use them for a purpose, recycle it and put back into the system again,” he said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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