Capital Region

January is Christmas tree disposal time

Tree ornaments, lights and tinsel should be removed
A Christmas tree is at the curb for disposal in the central State Street area of Schenectady Wednesday.
A Christmas tree is at the curb for disposal in the central State Street area of Schenectady Wednesday.

CAPITAL REGION — If December is the month for Christmas trees inside the house, January is the month for leaving them at the curb.

While some people, maybe those who put their natural trees up right after Thanksgiving, get their dried-out trees out to the curb within a day or two after Christmas, the vast majority of people don’t dispose of them until after New Year’s Day.

“Right now, we have some guys available if there are trees out, but the main hit will be in the next week, after the first of the year,” Rotterdam Town Highway Superintendent Larry Lamora said before the new year began.

Rotterdam’s highway crews will pick up trees through the end of January — one of the more generous pickup schedules in the Capital Region, where municipalities are responsible, either directly or indirectly, for what happens to the discarded trees.

The good news is that relatively few old Christmas trees end up on landfills; most of the trees are chipped into mulch, which has a number of uses and, possibly, even a little commercial value.

For the mulching programs to work, though, it is important that tinsel and any other ornaments be removed from the trees. Not many people forget to remove grandma’s handed-down ornaments, but tinsel isn’t an heirloom and, let’s face it, it is annoying to remove. You’ll need to do it anyway.

In most places, people who leave trees out with tinsel on them won’t have them picked up. Wrapping the tree in a plastic bag, which some people do, is also going to get it left behind.

Some municipalities pick up the trees on a regular basis through January, and others don’t, leaving the task to private contractors. Policies vary by community, so there is no substitute for checking with town or city websites.

The city of Schenectady will collect Christmas trees, along with other yard waste, through Jan. 25. The tree collections will be on the same day as the regular residential waste collection.

Niskayuna’s Highway Department will pick up trees through Jan. 31.

Some municipalities use the trees for mulch in parks or on walking trails. That’s how the Saratoga County town of Malta uses them. Trees in that town will be picked up curbside through Jan. 9. People may also bring their trees to the Highway Department on Route 9 and leave them by the gate.

Those who leave trees out need to be sure to remove all lights, wire, tinsel, ornaments, stands and other decorative materials. Trees that are taller than 7 feet should be cut up before being left out, according to the guidelines of most area municipalities.

It is best not to keep a natural tree up for too long, regardless of how badly one wants to keep the holiday spirit alive. The National Fire Protection Association reports that one-third of all Christmas tree fires occur in January.

In much of Saratoga County, County Waste — the commercial trash hauler based in Clifton Park — handles tree collections on behalf of municipalities, but it usually makes only one pass through each town.

In Clifton Park, trees must be put out by Sunday, Jan. 13, and County Waste will collect the trees through Jan. 18, though it will make only one pass down each street. Residents can also bring their trees to the town transfer station for no charge.

“They will not make a second pass,” said Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett. “It’s a very high cost, so it’s unreasonable to ask them to keep coming around.”

County Waste will make a single collection sweep through the town of Ballston on Jan. 17 for all residents, and will do a collection in Wilton on Jan. 23 for County Waste customers only. The town Highway Department doesn’t pick up trees, but it will chip trees brought to the highway garage.

In Halfmoon, the County Waste collection will be Jan. 14-15, but it will be for County Waste’s residential customers only. Glenville’s collection will be Jan. 21-25 for customers only, but trees must be left out by Jan. 20.

In other communities, County Waste will pick the trees up for a fee. County Waste did not respond to a request for comment ealier this week.

The municipal collections are weather-dependent. Snowstorm response takes priority over tree and yard waste collections.

“If we end up getting a few snowstorms, obviously we can’t pick up trees,” said Lamora. “They’ll end up packed in a snowbank, or they’ll get iced in. Then we just have to wait until it thaws out.”

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.



Categories: News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna


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