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Once things of beauty, Christmas trees quickly become trash

FOREST PARK – On Christmas Day, the small evergreen trees occupied places of honor in homes, festooned with every kind of light, tinsel and ornament.

The day after, their owners unceremoniously dumped them in corners of three city parks.

In designated areas in Forest Park, Carondelet Park and O’Fallon Park, the trees were tossed, on the first day of a city Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department’s tree recycling program. The city is accepting the trees until Jan. 10 and will grind them into free mulch to be distributed later at the same locations.

Later, the piles of trees may grow into mountains. But on the first day, there were already a few of the plants in one corner of the Lower Muny parking lot in Forest Park.

About six trees were piled in that lot about noon on Saturday. In all but one case, owners had removed all foreign objects – lights, tinsel, everything – as a city news release directed. The other tree was surrounded by a plastic bag.

Those who dropped off a tree on the first day after Christmas included Melissa and Brett Dillon of Richmond Heights.

Brett and Melissa Dillon drop their Christmas tree off Saturday in Forest Park..
Photo by Jim Merkel/MetroSTL.com

“We normally don’t get rid of it on the 26th. We usually wait about a week,” said Melissa Dillon, who is a secretary in a public school.

“But honestly, I woke up this morning [and thought], ‘I’m ready to take my Christmas stuff down and move my furniture back where it goes, ready to move on to the next year, absolutely.’”

The county bought their tree about three weeks before Christmas.

“This is the second year we’ve taken it to Forest Park,” Melissa Dillon said. “We’ve got to put it somewhere, and I think they advertise that they recycle it.”

Like the Dillons, Aaron Smith and his family normally take down their tree down around New Year’s Day.

“This is the first time I’ve gotten rid of it the day after [Christmas],” said Smith, who works in client services in the financial business.

The family planned to leave the following day for a week in South Carolina.  He’ll bring his computer, but probably not for work.

“We’re going to be quarantining in a house like we do here, but we’re trying to get the kids away from it,” said Smith, who lives in Clayton. Bringing the tree to the recycling site the day after Christmas makes it easier for him.

It’s also easier for Alyse Fisher of Kirkwood, a mother of two who brought her tree back about the same time as the others on Saturday.

Fisher, a nurse, speculated that she got rid of her tree the day after Christmas because her family didn’t need it anymore but wanted the space. She said she had brought her tree to Forest Park about three times.

“I appreciate its beauty, and I don’t mind driving here,” Fisher said.

Christmas trees dropped off for recycling already lie at the Lower Muny parking lot in Forest Park about noon on the day after Christmas 2020. Photo by Jim Merkel/MetroSTL.com

The dropoff points besides Forest Park are in the southwest corner of the O’Fallon Park YMCA parking lot; and between the maintenance yard gate and the recycling area at Grand and Holly Hills in Carondelet Park.

The Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department  will not accept artificial trees, nor wreaths and pine roping. Trees may not contain stands, ornaments, lights or any other kind of decorations. Plastic bags must not cover them.

Christmas trees must not be placed in alley dumpsters or recycling containers, the St. Louis Refuse Division said. However, bare Christmas trees will be collected as part of the monthly bulk pickup.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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