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Discarded Christmas Trees Could Help Mulch Azaleas and Camellias

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Come spring, your Christmas tree could be pushing up daisies.

Actually, azaleas and camellias.

Kellogg Supply, a Carson fertilizer business, plans to take tens of thousands of chopped-up Christmas trees collected in Los Angeles and the South Bay and turn them into mulch for its azalea-camellia mix.

The project is one among many in the Los Angeles area to recycle discarded Christmas trees so they don’t wind up in one of the region’s trash-clogged dumps.

In 13 South Bay cities, for instance, trash haulers have arranged to have Christmas trees picked up at the curb, cut into chips and processed as compost. Residents whose haulers don’t offer that service can take their trees to one of several recycling pickup locations in the area.

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Solid waste officials hope the efforts succeed.

The state is requiring cities to cut the amount of trash they send to dumps by at least 25% by 1995 and 50% or more by the year 2000. That has forced cities to consider recycling numerous types of trash, including “green waste”--the discarded leaves, limbs and grass cuttings that are estimated to account for about 30% of a typical city’s refuse.

“California is having a landfill crisis. We are nearing capacity,” said Jennifer Raue, a recycling specialist with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. “Recycling green waste could help. It’s a good resource and could be used productively.”

This season’s programs to recycle Christmas trees mark a step in the right direction, Raue and other officials say.

A major example involves Kellogg Supply, which has agreed to make compost out of chopped-up Christmas trees collected for recycling in Los Angeles and Carson. Residents who drop off their trees at one of seven locations (in the South Bay it is Harbor City’s Harbor Regional Park) will receive coupons good for discounts on Kellogg products.

Kathryn Kellogg, corporate secretary of the family-owned business, says the acidic compost from Christmas trees is well-suited to azaleas and camellias, which require relatively acidic soil. The 3/8-inch Christmas tree chips, she said, require up to 90 days of processing before yielding compost that can be used in the company’s azalea-camellia mix.

“We figure we will be using the compost from the (Christmas) trees from about April 1 to April 30,” Kellogg said. She estimated that her company will process chips from 70,000 to 100,000 Christmas trees.

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The county sanitation agency, meanwhile, estimates that it will grind up tens of thousands of Christmas trees for use as compost in landscaping at the dumps it operates. Raue says the agency will process trees collected for recycling in six South Bay cities--El Segundo, Lawndale, Lomita, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills Estates and Torrance.

Haulers delivering loads composed solely of Christmas trees to the agency’s dumps will not be charged dumping fees, Raue said. Western Waste, a private hauler that plans to chop up its Christmas trees and deliver them to Kellogg Supply, will be paid about $40 per ton, or 30 cents per tree, Kellogg said.

Richard Widrig, a Western Waste vice president, said the income will not amount to much.

“It’s not a windfall for Western Waste by any means,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of overtime and additional costs.” Solid-waste officials say that with the state-mandated trash reductions nearing, this season’s Christmas tree programs only mark a first step in the effort to recycle discarded greenery.

Said Arlene Barco, recycling coordinator for Torrance: “Over the next few years, residents will see a lot of changes.”

Christmas Tree Recycling

Curbside pickup of Christmas trees for recycling will be available to many South Bay residents. Haulers ask that the trees be free of stands, nails, tinsel, ornaments and flocking. Pickup will occur on regular trash days during the following periods:

Carson: Dec. 30-Jan. 4

El Segundo: Any time

Gardena: Jan. 6-10

Hawthorne: Jan. 6-10 for single-family homes. Apartment residents must call H & C Disposal at (310) 675-3331.

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Hermosa Beach: Dec. 28-Jan. 4

Inglewood: Jan. 6-10

Lawndale: Jan. 9-11

Manhattan Beach: Dec. 30-Jan. 4

Palos Verdes Estates: Jan. 11

Redondo Beach: Dec. 30-Jan. 4

Rolling Hills: Jan. 11

Rolling Hills Estates: Jan. 11

Torrance: Dec. 30-Jan. 10 for residents whose trash is collected by the city. Other residents are urged to contact their hauler.

Note: Trash will not be collected on Jan. 1.

Residents whose haulers have not arranged to recycle Christmas trees collected at the curb can take their trees to a recycling collection center. Here are some of the South Bay locations:

Carson: Dec. 26-31 and Jan. 2-10, 321 W. Francisco St.

Lawndale: Dec. 26-31 and Jan.

2-10, 4722 Manhattan Beach Blvd.

Lomita: Dec. 30-31 and Jan. 6-7;

City Hall parking lot, 24300 Narbonne Ave.

Harbor City, San Pedro and Wilmington: Dec. 28-31 and Jan. 2-4; Harbor Regional Park, 25700 Vermont Ave.

Rancho Palos Verdes: Dec. 26-Jan. 12; City Hall, 30940 Hawthorne Blvd.

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