20 sites accepting real Christmas trees to chip into mulch

Christmas tree recycling started Wednesday in Sedgwick County, with 20 locations accepting real Christmas trees — minus all decorations — for chipping into mulch.

Trees can be left at the sites through Jan. 23.

Before she retired last week after 29 years in the county's Environmental Resources office, Caroline Hosford answered questions about the recycling program, which she had coordinated since the county took over the program in 2001.

Are there any new locations this year?

Maize is back this year after a year off, at a new location, 4900 N. Maize Road.

Last year, the most popular spots were the Extension Center, Edgemoor Park, Buffalo Park and the Great Plains Nature Center.

Has the numbers of trees recycled been down every year?

I would say it's been a gradual decline. Then there was one year they went back up, then they've been steadily coming down. We don't know exactly why. I tend to think it has to do with the fact that a few years ago nobody had an artificial tree and now it's become much more in vogue. It does seem to me it goes as the economy goes.

Could it be that more people are just tossing their trees in the trash?

It could be. However, because I've worked in this a lot, I pay attention to people's trash, and I don't see all that many trees out by the trash cans anymore. It used to be they were always there.

Why do you open the recycling sites before Christmas?

We've always done that because there are people who go out of town before Christmas and they'll celebrate Christmas ahead of time and they want to take it (the tree) down and get it out and be done. It also does allow stores like Christmas tree lots, say, on Christmas Eve if they don't have any more (sales), they could recycle them.

When does mulch-making start?

In general they wait until they have a few there. The bigger sites are probably going to be the ones that would be chipped more often because the trees show up there. They don't chip before Christmas.

Once in a while they will have mulch left at one site and they'll be like "Nobody's going to come get it" so then they transport it to the Extension. But it doesn't happen every often. More often than not people are calling: "Do you have any more?" As it's chipped it's gone in most locations.

People can have as much or little as they want. The point is we want it to be reused.

Anything else?

Please do stress to take off the ornaments and the tree stand. It's unbelievable how many people will leave the tree stand there, because the workers then have to take the stands off. Some will take the ornaments off but leave the lights on. Then when they chip them the lights get into the equipment, and it's not a good thing.