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How to clean up Christmas, the green way

How to recycle after the holidays
Posted at 4:10 PM, Dec 26, 2022

Many people put up ornaments, garlands, and Christmas trees for the winter holidays.

Teresa Smith, who lives in North San Luis Obispo County, said, “We just have our Christmas tree up. And then we also put our outside Christmas lights inside this year because no one will see them, we live out in the country now. So we have it decorated inside and then we have our inflatables inside with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and our penguin.”

But taking down all of that cheer can be complicated and a little messy.

“We went artificial about five years ago and it was a good move,” Bob Hoover said.

Before recycling organic materials like trees, wreaths, and mistletoe, people need to remove the ornaments.

“Once we take off all the ornaments, I'm pretty sure we're just going to set it out for the garbage people to take all. We might run it down to the landfill over in the valley,” said Phillip Randall King, who was raised in San Luis Obispo County before moving to Indiana.

“Glass and the ornaments, tinsel and things like that. If you throw it out, it goes into the regular garbage, as does frosted trees and plastic trees and things like that,” explained Tom Gratz, the Sales Manager for Hitachi Zosen Inova, U.S.A. The company operates the greenwaste facility that serves much of San Luis Obispo County.

After removing the decorations and stands on Christmas trees, people can chop them up, “Put it in the green bin by cutting them up and sticking it in the green bin. Ornaments are contamination and it can potentially hurt the quality of the compost that's created,” added Gratz.

Once the company receives green waste, they shred it up and feed it to the digester where the bacteria converts the green waste into renewable energy and compost.

“In San Luis Obispo County, the majority of the compost goes to local agriculture. Some of the vineyards and crop growers in the area, they like our compost because it's natural, it's organic and it's used to regrow new plants,” he said.

Trees must be cut into four feet or a shorter length. The Atascadero Waste Management Encourages customers to cut their trees in half but if they cannot, customers can call and schedule a pickup.

You can check the San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority for specific regional resources.