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Holiday Recycling

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By now many holiday festivities are over and the clean-up process is well underway. It’s a shame to shovel all our trash into a landfill somewhere, when so much of it is recyclable. What can we do with some of those holiday packaging and decorating materials that threaten to overwhelm us at this time of the year?

Wreaths, swags, and greens: Live conifer branches, pine cones, and other natural materials can be added to your compost pile. Even though evergreens take a little longer to decompose, they will break down. All of these materials simply create another layer, and since they were alive and growing only a couple of weeks ago, they add moisture and a source of nitrogen to the compost.

Christmas trees: Tuolumne County’s Solid Waste Division is encouraging Tuolumne County residents to recycle their real Christmas trees. Christmas trees can be chipped, shredded and used as mulch for water conservation and weed control, erosion and/or dust control on hiking trails and bridle paths, additives in composting operations, and alternative fuel in co-generation or biomass plants.

Local collection companies, the Big Oak Flat/Groveland Transfer Station and the Cal Sierra/Waste Management Earth Resource Facility are accepting Christmas trees on a limited basis for FREE under certain conditions. Christmas trees should NOT be mixed with other trash for disposal or recycling.

Residents may wish to chip their Christmas trees and use them at home as mulch or compost or take advantage of one of the following opportunities to recycle Christmas trees in Tuolumne County. Please remove all decorations, tinsel, metal tree stands and nails. Also, some trees may have a metal supporting rod in the trunk that must be removed. Please do not bring any Christmas wrapping paper or trash.

Drop off your tree at:

• Big Oak Flat/Groveland Transfer Station at the end of Merrell Road will accept clean cut and bundled trees AT NO CHARGE. The minimum gate fee of $14.70 will be charged for flocked trees. Drop off during regular business hours, 8:00 am to 3:45 pm, Wednesday and Saturday only, through the month of January.

• Cal Sierra/Waste Management Earth Resource Facility (ERF) on Camage Avenue, off of Tuolumne Road, near Standard will accept clean, whole trees AT NO CHARGE during regular business hours, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, closed 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Tuesday thru Saturday, through the month of January. NO FLOCKED TREES. All other green waste will be at the regular charge.

Curbside collection: Local solid waste collection companies will provide limited free curbside collection of Christmas trees from customers in their respective collection areas along their regular collection routes. Note: trees must be free of all types of decoration and any metals, be cut 4 feet or less in length, bundled and tied. Bundle must weigh 40 pounds or less.

• Burns Refuse Service will pick up trees in their collection area beginning Monday, January 4, through Friday, January 8, 2010 on regular trash collection days. NO FLOCKED TREES.

• Cal Sierra Disposal/Waste Management will pick up trees in its collection area beginning Monday, January 4, through Friday, January 8, 2010. NO FLOCKED TREES.

• Moore Bros Scavenger Co., Inc will pick up trees in their collection area one day only on Tuesday, January 5, 2010. NO FLOCKED TREES.

Packing Peanuts: Recycled packing materials such as peanuts and bubble wrap are accepted at local shipping and mailbox stores.

Styrofoam: Master Gardeners are again hosting their semi-annual Styrofoam collection Saturday, January 16, and Sunday, January 17. Bring your clean, #6 Styrofoam to the big green bin on Microtronics Way in the industrial park off Tuolumne Road in Sonora. Take Tuolumne Road to Nugget Boulevard, from Nugget turn right onto Camage. Just past the Waste Management offices on Camage Avenue, take a right turn onto Microtronics and follow the signs.

Master Gardeners will be on hand from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. They will unload your car and stack the Styrofoam. It will then be condensed, baled, and delivered to Timbron International in Stockton to be extruded into construction moldings.

If you’re not able to participate in the after-holiday Styrofoam collection, don’t worry. Save your material and we’ll be back in June in conjunction with the Sonora Household Hazardous Waste collection event.

From all UCCE Tuolumne County Master Gardeners, we hope your holidays are happy and peaceful. And with a bit of planning, let’s keep our holiday materials out of the landfill.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is the Master Gardener program coordinator for Tuolumne County U.C. Cooperative Extension.