Here’s what happens to your Christmas tree when you trash it

Published: Dec. 26, 2018 at 11:45 PM EST
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MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - It’s a huge space. Covered in mounds of mulch, branches, leaves.

Welcome to the Christmas tree graveyard.

“We get about 500 tons of Christmas trees every year,” Jeff Smithberger says.

Smithberger runs Mecklenburg County’s solid waste department, where he collects those hundreds of Christmas trees yearly.

But this isn’t the true resting place for these festive pines.

“We’ll grind them up and mulch them and turn them into compost material,” he says.

People who live in the county can leave them out to the curb for their respective jurisdictions to collect, or bring them in themselves.

“We have even had people bring Christmas trees to us in April,” Smithberger says.

But fire crews over in Harrisburg, focused on the household safety of it all, warn to take care of it sooner rather than later.

“Today or tomorrow, go ahead and take down your decorations and your Christmas tree, depose of it properly,” Captain Jack Gonzalez says.

Gonzalez and his crew lit a dry Christmas tree for WBTV to show just how fast it can be engulfed in flames. They say a scene like that is most likely to happen in your house, after December 25th.

“People tend to forget about the Christmas tree, and watering it,” Gonzalez says.

Smithberger says his team will take up to five trees per family. But he pleads – like he does every year – for folks to take off those festive lights, first.

“Because nobody likes Christmas lights in their mulch,” he says.

The team re-sells that mulch product back to the community, $20 a bag. They say there’s not much of a profit for the county on that though, it simply helps cover the cost of this yearly project.

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