Fayette County

Want to recycle your natural Christmas tree? Let the state dump it in a lake

Christmas is over. But that doesn’t mean this is the end for your Christmas tree.

With proper recycling, your tree could find itself under water, benefiting Kentucky wildlife, or under foot, benefiting local plants. Lexington and state agencies will be happy to take your tree — after all of the lights, tinsel, ornaments and every other holiday decoration are removed — and recycle it for a wide variety of helpful purposes.

Here’s how to make sure your tree ends up in the right hands.

Drop it on the curb

Lexington garbage collection will soon begin picking up natural and artificial Christmas trees on normal trash collection days. Lauren Monahan, the environmental initiatives specialist at Lexington’s Department of Waste Management, said city garbage customers can leave their decoration-free trees on the curb on normal pick-up days from Monday, Dec. 31, to Friday, Jan. 25.

Broken or unwanted Christmas lights should be taken to city’s Electronics Recycling Center, located at 1306 Versailles Road, or collection bins at several sites around the city, including Broomwagon Coffee + Bikes at 800 North Limestone, Chevy Chase Hardware at 883 East High Street, Crank & Boom at 1210 Manchester Street, Gainsway Community Center at 3460 Campus Way and the government center, 200 East Main Street. The lights can damage equipment used for recycling other materials.

Artificial trees will be collected and taken to a landfill. Monahan recommended artificial trees be donated to the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity if they’re still usable.

After collection, natural trees will be fed into a large mulching machine at the city’s composting site, Monahan said. Free mulch made from the natural trees will be distributed to residents in the fall and the spring. The dates and locations have not yet been set for the city’s mulch giveaway.

Residents can also mulch their natural trees on their property, if they can do it safely. Mulching the tree at home may be more energy efficient, Monahan said, since the trees don’t have to be loaded onto the city’s trucks and driven to the mulching site. If a private company picks up your garbage, you should get tree disposal instructions from them.

Or let the state drop it in a lake?

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife re-purposes donated, natural Christmas trees in a program spokesperson Kevin Kelly described as “Christmas for the fishes.”

For several years, the department has been dropping retired Christmas trees in lake bottoms to create brush reefs—a natural woody cover that provides shade, algae and food to growing fish, Kelly said. A recent department video showed that the wooded brush reefs in many of Kentucky’s lakes and reservoirs have eroded over time.

“You drop it off, we’ll drop it in,” Kelly said.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., trees can be dropped off in designated areas at locations throughout the state.Department employees will use a trailer later to haul away the trees.

Lexington’s drop-off location is in Jacobson Park in the paddle craft parking lot, and there are also drop-off locations in Versailles, Georgetown and Richmond. The exact addresses can be found on the department’s website at https://fw.ky.gov/fish/pages/xmas_tree_recycling.aspx. Kelly said that donated trees should be free of any lights or decorations. No artificial trees will be accepted.

Here’s a list of the drop-off locations across the region:

  • Fayette County: paddle craft parking lot, Jacobson Park (469 Parkway Drive, Lexington)
  • Woodford County: Conservation District (180 Beasley Road, Versailles)
  • Scott County: Brooking Park next to the road department garage (1260 Scott County Park Road, Georgetown.)

  • Madison County: Soccer complex B parking lot at Lake Reba (Lake Reba Drive, Richmond)

  • Franklin County: Fish and Wildlife Headquarters (#1 Sportman’s Lane, Frankfort)

  • Franklin County: Forks of Elkhorn Hatchery (3785 Georgetown Road, Frankfort)