Recycling Programs Turn Discarded Christmas Trees Into Fuel, Mulch, And Fish Habitat

Jan 2, 2020

Credit Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Towns and cities across Wyoming are encouraging residents to recycle their natural Christmas trees rather than send them to a landfill. Donated trees will be turned into compost, mulch and fuel. In Fremont County, they’ll have second lives as fish habitat in a lake outside of Pavillion.

The project began 30 years ago, with a group of local anglers looking to restore the fish population in Ocean Lake. Today, Wyoming Game and Fish teams up with the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District and the local Inberg-Miller Engineering firm to collect the trees, weigh them down with cinder blocks, and place them on top of the frozen lake in early February.

Rene Schell, information and education specialist for Game and Fish’s Lander region, said the trees will sink to the bottom come springtime and provide much needed structure.

“Fish like structure, just like reefs out in the ocean. And there was not structure at the bottom of ocean lake. So the trees sink down and provide sort of an inland reef,” Schell said.

That makes Ocean Lake friendlier to fish and those looking to catch them.

“The younger fish can hide and have a chance to grow before entering out with all the larger fish predators. And then the larger fish, they just like to congregate around structure,” Schell said. “So for fisherman, the fish aren’t then evenly dispersed around the lake. They’re easier for them to find in a couple of pockets around the lake.”

Residents should remove all tinsel, ornaments and other decorations and drop their live trees at the Lander Landfill, Riverton Transfer Station, or Dubois Landfill before January 30th. Artificial trees will not be accepted. Schell said volunteers are welcome to help weight the trees and place them on the ice on an early-February date that will be chosen later this month based on ice conditions.

Instructions for recycling live trees in other parts of the state are listed below.

Casper - Donated live trees stripped of all tinsel, lights and decorations will be accepted at the following drop-off locations and turned into compost that is available to the public and used in city parks. City of Casper residents who are trash customers may also call the solid waste office and request curbside pickup (307-235-8246).

  • Mike Sedar Park Pool Area
  • Huber Park
  • 13th & Sycamore Ballfield -
  • Viking Court by sidewalk overpass (Blackmore Rd. and Wyoming Blvd.)
  • North Casper Athletic Complex on E "K" St. near the recycling depot
  • TOWN OF MILLS: 624 SW Wyoming Blvd (across from town hall)
  • TOWN OF EVANSVILLE: Compost Yard (280 5th St)

Cheyenne - Residents can drop off their natural Christmas tree at the city’s composting facility (3714 Windmill Road) free of charge. For more information, contact the Cheyenne Sanitation Division at (307) 637-6440.

Cody - Trees left in the drop-off area east of Sunset School, just beyond the softball field at the end of East Sheridan Avenue, will be run through a chipper in mid-January. Residents are welcome to free mulch at the same location afterwards. For more information, call the City of Cody, (307) 527-7511.

Gilette - The City of Gillette, Gillette College, and Campbell County Master Gardeners are sponsoring the city’s annual tree recycling program. Trees can be left at the Gilette College Technical Center (3251 S. 4J Rd.) and will be chipped by the city’s forestry division for use in Gilette’s community gardens.

Laramie - Volunteers from the Laramie Knights of Pythias, Laramie High School Rodeo Club, Laramie Rangers Baseball, Snowy Range FFA, Wyoming Technical Institute, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will pick up Christmas trees free of charge for one day only. Residents should leave their trees on the curb by 9:00am on Saturday, January 11th. All trees will be composted.

Rock Springs - The city Parks and Recreation Department is offering free Christmas Tree disposal until January 31 at 200 Community Park Drive. Drop-off is free, and all trees will be turned into mulch for use by the city.

Teton County - Live trees can be discarded free of charge at the Teton County Fairgrounds or at the Transfer Station south of Jackson. Trees will be chipped and used for fuel in the county. For more information, contactTeton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling (307-733-7678).

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.