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Westmoreland Cleanways sponsors 'Treecycling' effort

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

After its branches have been stripped of ornaments and garland, a Christmas tree can still be useful, even to local parks and animals, Westmoreland Cleanways officials said.

The nonprofit sponsors an annual “Christmas Tree-cycling” program, during which residents can drop off their live trees at 20 sites across Westmoreland County.

“You are taking your live Christmas tree to a set drop-off location where it will then get turned into mulch ... or it gets used as wildlife habitat or even some erosion barriers in lakes and rivers versus going in a landfill where it just takes up space,” said Natalie Reese, program director for West-moreland Cleanways.

When the trees are placed along the banks of lakes and rivers, they provide an erosion barrier as well as a habitat for fish, she said.

The trees provide a fresh coat of mulch in some local green spaces, including Hempfield Park and the Ligonier Nature Trail. One live Christmas tree can become about five pounds of mulch, which eventually will decompose and nourish the soil.

Trees donated in Westmoreland County directly benefit wildlife and parks here, she said.

In 2012, about 2,600 trees were collected countywide, 827 more than the year before. Last year was the first time the figures included trees dropped off at Valley Landfill for on-site composting, Reese said.

Valley Landfill, along Pleasant Valley Road in Penn Township, will offer tree recycling services again this year.

Westmoreland Cleanways has sponsored the program for two decades. It collects about 1,500 trees a year.

It's free to recycle the trees, but some groups that sponsor collection sites request donations.

Trees must be free of decorations, tree bags and wrappings when they are dropped off.

Across the United States, 15,000 farms grow 350 million Christmas trees, which support a complex ecosystem, according to the organization's website.

The group discourages the use of artificial trees, contending they are manufactured by using methods that consume natural resources, and the plastic can contain PVC.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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