Christmas Tree Recycling Program Reduces Fire Risk

As they have for the past 15 years, the Houston Fire Department and the Solid Waste Management Department are launching their annual Christmas tree recycling program. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Formerly live but dried out Christmas trees are a serious fire hazard. The Houston Fire Department says nationwide, over the past five years, Christmas tree fires have killed dozens of people and burned down hundreds of homes. Assistant Fire Chief Omero Longoria says there are several ways a Christmas tree can catch fire.

"For the most part what we're seeing is mistakes being made like placing a space heater too close to the Christmas tree, some electrical malfunction with Christmas tree lighting, and in some instances also, a candle being placed too close to the tree."

Longoria says the Fire Department needs for people to get the dried up Christmas tree out of the house as soon as possible after Christmas, and this is where the city Solid Waste Department comes in. Spokeswoman Marina Joseph says they do the rest.

"The trees are brought to a private company which is called Living Earth Technology. They take if off our hands at no cost to the city at all, so this is a win-win. What they do is take that material and convert it into mulch or other soil amendments."

Joseph says since the Christmas tree recycling program began in 1991, more than half a million trees have been collected and turned into mulch. Joseph says they recycle real trees only. Artificial trees and real trees that have been flocked will be picked up on heavy trash pickup day and taken to the landfill. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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