Christmas Castoffs Make Merry Mulch


Nope, said Rosalia Rojo. A recycled Christmas tree isn’t one that’s stored away until it can be redecorated and used over again next December.

In Los Angeles, a recycled tree is one that is ground into mulch and fertilizer and spread on the soil to help other plants grow.

Rojo, a city sanitary engineer, was passing that explanation along Saturday to donors who carted their castoff holiday trees to a Bureau of Sanitation collection point in Highland Park.

The pickup site, in the parking lot of the Highland Park Senior Center at Figueroa Street and York Avenue, is one of seven tree collection centers open citywide through Jan. 6.


“These trees would otherwise be going to the landfills,” Rojo said. “Most of the landfills are reaching capacity. So this saves space and makes use of a natural resource.”

The city is paying a Santa Fe Springs firm $25 a ton to grind up the trees. A ton contains about 150 trees, said Sara McEneaney, a sanitation engineering assistant collecting trees Saturday in a parking lot across Highland Avenue from the Hollywood Bowl.

Counting workers’ salaries, the drive is expected to cost the city about $10,000, said McEneaney. That comes to $1 for each of the 10,000 castoffs that officials hope to gather this year.

Sanitation engineers got the tree-grinding idea in 1988, and the resulting pilot pickup program a year ago turned 2,800 trees into mulch.

Residents who strapped dried-out pines to the roofs of their cars Saturday to drive them to the pickup points said they hope the program is expanded--particularly if the city figures out a way to collect the trees at the curb.

“I told some of my friends about this and they were bummed out because they’d already tossed out their trees and couldn’t recycle them,” said Dennis Bowen of Toluca Lake.

Shirley Campbell of El Monte drove 50 miles to contribute her tree--and her sister’s--at the Hollywood Bowl location. “There’s nothing like this in the San Gabriel Valley. I wish the City of El Monte did something like this,” she said.

La Crescenta resident Pete Freidenberger thanked sanitation worker Rickey Harper for taking his pine off his hands.


“It’s kind of a waste, isn’t it, to cut down a tree and use it for a couple of weeks and then toss it in the waste pile,” Freidenberger said.

In Encino, about 75 residents turned trees in at a collection point at the Balboa Sports Center at Balboa and Burbank boulevards.

Bruce Mok, recycling program manager for the Bureau of Sanitation, was there early Saturday to help open the pickup location. He said curbside tree pickups may be attempted next holiday season in some neighborhoods as part of a new recycling plan that will reach into parts of the eastern San Fernando Valley and the Eagle Rock-Mt. Washington areas.

Other tree-recycling centers open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except New Year’s Day are at the Sheldon Arleta Landfill, Wicks Street and Sharp Avenue in Pacoima; South Park at San Pedro and 49th streets in South-Central Los Angeles; 644 S. Venice Blvd. in Venice, and Harbor Regional Park, Vermont Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in Harbor City.