Despite a public information campaign that got off to a late start, the city's first Christmas tree recycling program last year collected more than 1,400 trees.
This year, the word is being put out early and city officials expect a blizzard of trees to hit the recycling lot at Los Altos and La Alameda after Christmas.
"We expect even more, because last year a lot of people went down to the county lot in Laguna Niguel," said Rick Howard, city management analyst. "We started getting things together around November this year and we've taken steps like leaving flyers at the Christmas tree lots in Mission Viejo."
Workers grind the trees into mulch on the recycling lot, using some of the material for landscaping in the city. The rest is sent to an Irvine farm. Residents who want to use the mulch in their yards are encouraged to bring a bag, Howard said. Last year's trees created 28,500 pounds of plant mulch.
"We use the material on our slopes and in flower beds as a water conservation measure," he said. "Its absorbency is very good."
Starting Saturday, the recycling yard will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends through Jan. 10. The lot will be closed on New Year's Day. Last year, heavy demand for the service prompted the city to keep the lot open an extra weekend.
"Most people dispose of their tree between Christmas Day and New Year's, but so many were dropping off their trees on the last weekend, we decided to keep the lot open another weekend," Howard said.
The program also helps the city meet state-mandated requirements to reduce trash disposal in the city, Howard said.
"Christmas trees take up so much room in landfills," he said. "Recycling them is a great thing for the ecology of the area. It makes a lot of sense and quite a few cities are doing this these days. We expect this program to really take off this year."