Fredrikson Farm’s goat herd in China is gratefully accepting old Christmas trees. Contributed photo

We have discussed here the selection of real vs. artificial Christmas decorations, but now the question is what to do with them when the season is finished. It turns out, there are several good options.

The first composting option is that the town of Brunswick will collect Christmas trees from the curb on your regular trash pickup day between Jan. 10-21st, according to the town website. The key here is that the trees will ultimately be mulched and composted, so they cannot contain any tinsel, spray-on “snow” or other decorations, since those cannot usually be composted themselves. Just put the tree by itself next to your regular cans. In the past, this has usually been (in my experience) a separate pickup, so the trees should not be mixed with other stuff.

A really nice alternative is to take trees to a goat farm, where the goats see them as about the finest kind of treats around. Most larger goat farms in the area, from what I’ve seen, will take them — decorations removed — for a while, but they can get overloaded with them, so it’s probably best to call ahead and ask about the farm’s interest. We need to also be cautious because other animals will eat them, but some can become quite ill when they do.

Our friends at Earth911 also offer the options of stripping the branches off the tree, then cutting the trunk into rustic coasters. Be sure to dry them fully before putting them on a nice table, or even add a piece of cloth to the bottom to protect the surface of the table from scratches.

An option I find interesting is Earth911’s suggestion that the tree be tossed into a frog pond on your property, where it can provide shelter and nutrients for the creatures living there. Be sure, of course, to remove any ornaments or decorations first, and get permission from the owner if it’s not your pond, or if it’s shared with others.

If you let them dry long enough, even fir trees can be used as firewood. The consensus seems to be that a year or more of drying time is needed to avoid any creosote buildup in chimneys or stacks.

Friends have used the trees and wreaths in small “bonfires” to celebrate the solstice in March, but I’m only comfortable doing that if there is a good layer of snow on the ground. These greens burn very fast and hot, and they can tend to spark a bit, so you need extra caution with outdoor fires. Such celebrations usually include a table with food and drink, which can also grab sparks or burn if it is too close to the fire. Please keep fires small and in a fire pit containment area of some sort. Most towns require a fire department permit for an outdoor fire, so we need to be sure to get one of those before burning decorations, as well, and follow any department requirements.

Wreaths are a bigger problem because they are built around wire frames, and the greens are held on with twisted wire as well. We really need to disassemble those, then compost the greens, while discarding the metal or saving it for next year and building a new wreath with it. The problem goes away with a Solstice Fire but raises all the same problems as a tree burning.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected] Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee, though his opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the committee.

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