If you haven’t yet done so, toss the tree
So we recently flipped the calendar and it’s now January. That means the weather is largely cold and dry, and the holidays have come and gone. While some folks like to keep their Christmas tree up until Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany (traditionally marking the ancient visit of the three wise men to Bethlehem), now that it’s over, we should all be packing up the ornaments — and tossing out those live trees — if we haven’t yet done so.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, Christmas trees started an average of 170 house fires each year from 2012 to 2016 (the last year for which figures are available), resulting in an annual average of four deaths, 15 injuries and $12 million in direct property damage. That’s because as the trees dry out, they become a major fire hazard. In 2015, an overly dry Christmas tree sparked a fire at a mansion in Annapolis that killed two adults and four of their grandchildren.
In fact, the NFPA reports Christmas tree fires are more likely to be deadly than most other fires because of how quickly they can ignite. On average, one in every 32 reported house fires caused by Christmas trees results in a death, while just one in every 143 house fires with other causes is fatal. And more than a third of these Christmas tree fires start in the living room, where the tree is kept.
They may be festive and fun, and the temptation to keep them on display and keep the magic of the holidays going as long as possible is real. But the recommended life span of these decorative pines is actually just two weeks, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office. If you’ve been watering it every day and you’ve still got a little time left with your tree, make sure it’s located away from any heat sources. And then, sooner rather than later, get rid of it.
Calvert County residents can take their live Christmas trees, wreaths and garland to county convenience centers for recycling at no charge through Jan. 31. After Jan. 31, all trees must be brought to the Appeal Landfill and standard yard waste fees will apply.
All decorations, including support frames, lights and metal stands, must be removed from trees, wreaths and garlands. Trees and wreaths may not be in plastic bags. Trees should not be cut up. All materials will be taken to the Appeal Landfill to be mulched. Untreated mulch is available to county residents at no charge.
Wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, holiday cards and other paper are accepted at the convenience centers for recycling at no cost, any time of the year. Cardboard boxes should be flattened and all packing materials, ribbons and Styrofoam must be removed for disposal, a press release states.
Locations of the six convenience centers and their hours are listed on the county website at www.calvertcountymd.gov/recycle. For more information, call 410-326-0210.
But that’s not the only option for recycling and repurposing the beloved family Christmas tree. Nancy Radcliffe, a master gardener in Southern Maryland, has told us that the festive trees make a perfect wildlife sanctuary or bird feeder for those who live in wooded areas or with some space in their yard. After stripping the tree down to only what Mother Nature endowed it with, simply drag it outside and leave it as is, either flat on the ground or propped up, for birds to use for protection from the winter elements.
Families can even turn it into a game. Have the kids pitch in by decorating the tree with fruit slices, popcorn or peanuts to attract the birds, Radcliffe suggested. Turning the Christmas tree’s removal from the home into a family activity might be just the thing to help keep the holiday spirit of fun and togetherness burning strong well into the new year.
Then once spring arrives and the tree becomes more brittle, break it down and take what remains of it to one of the convenience centers to be processed into mulch.
Whatever you choose to do with it, don’t leave the tree in your home or garage, or even leaning against the side of your home outside, as the NFPA considers this to be a dangerous fire hazard. With options available, don’t sit on this one. It’s time to get busy recycling, repurposing and, most importantly, removing that tree.