City picks up Christmas trees, recycles holiday lights


Molly Lubbers/The Daily Northwestern

Holiday lights fill a recycling bin at Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. Lights can be dropped off there and at Levy Senior Center and Evanston Ecology Center through Jan. 31 to be recycled.

Max Lubbers, Assistant City Editor

As a free service to Evanston residents, city crews will pick up Christmas trees during residents’ designated refuse and recycling collection day through Jan. 31, according to a news release.
According to the most recent report by the National Christmas Tree Association, more than 32 million real Christmas trees were bought in 2018 in the United States.Michael Callahan, the city’s forestry supervisor, said the city will take some of those Christmas trees and convert them to mulch.
Residents should lay their trees on the parkway – the space between the street and sidewalk – since trees won’t be picked up from alleys or private property, according to the news release. Because the trees are typically chipped on the spot, it would be too difficult to maneuver chipper equipment in alleys, Callahan said.
Additionally, residents should take off lights and decorations, like ornaments or tinsel, and should not place them in plastic bags. These decorations and plastic bags keep the tree from being chipped immediately. In cases where the extra pieces have not been removed, the crew may decide not to take the tree, Callahan said.
“If it’s something we can throw in the back of a pick-up truck, typically we will take it and try to do something with it, but (a tree with decorations) gets put in a different pile and we can’t do much with that,” Callahan said. “Sometimes they do get left, it just depends on the situation.”
Holiday lights can also be recycled through Jan. 31, according to a news release.
The city, in conjunction with the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County and Elgin Recycling, is accepting holiday string lighting and conjunction cords at three locations. People can drop off these items at the Levy Senior Center, Evanston Ecology Center and Evanston Public Library’s main branch during their normal facility hours.
Jose Maldonado, circulation manager of EPL’s main branch, said the trash can that holds the lights was closer to the security desk in previous years. Now, it is located to the left of the main entrance.
“People really like to use it,” Maldonado said. “It gets filled up; I mean, we have to empty it once a week. It gets thoroughly used. People are dropping things off all the time.”
So far, the city has collected over 80 cubic yards of wood chips, which is the equivalent of about six chipper trucks, according to Callahan. He added the wood chips from Christmas trees are used for city projects and more.
“It’s also provided to the citizens,” Callahan said, “so we have a mulch pile that citizens can take from and use it for their own private, personal use.”
The mulch pile is located at James Park on Dodge Avenue and Mulford Street. Residents are free to take as much mulch as they like, according to the city website.
Callahan said Christmas trees are a byproduct that can be thrown into a dump or recycled, but it’s easier for residents to let the city recycle the trees. He also added that it can help the environment.
“It’s one of those programs where we can actually take a resource that’s going to basically just go to waste, and we have the opportunity to recycle it and use it in a productive manner,” Callahan said.

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