18th Annual Mulchfest ‘Treecycles’ Christmas Trees Into Groundcover

January 10, 2014 Updated: January 10, 2014

NEW YORK—New York City Parks and Recreation along with the Department of Sanitation, local politicians, and organizations announced the 18th annual “Mulchfest” taking place on January 11th and 12th.

“Parks [and Recreation] holds Mulchfest every year because it provides many benefits to the city’s plant life,” said Liam Kavanagh the First Deputy Commissioner for NYC Parks and Recreation at the announcement in Tompkins Square Park on Thursday. “Mulch helps our city’s trees and plants by deterring weeds, retaining moisture and preventing impaction and adding nutrients to the soil and keeping the roots nice and warm throughout the cold winter months.”

Mulching Christmas trees also keeps them out of the landfills and the mulch is used as ground cover in New York City parks.

“At the Department of Sanitation we are very focused right now on increasing recycling,” said Ron Gonen, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation. “A big part of that is making sure we divert all our organic material from landfills and either into compost or anaerobic digestion.”

That is why even the Christmas trees on the curbside will be recycled. Instead of sending them to the landfill with the other trash, sanitation will send them to Randall’s Island and Freshkills to be processed into mulch along with the other trees brought in.

One Parks employee said they have to strip every tree by hand before it is fed into the machine. 

Some of the trees come with stands, decorations and plastic on them, which all have be cleaned off before the trees is ground up. When asked about tinsel, he said they didn’t bother to remove it because it takes too long. He says it takes them weeks to process all the trees as it is. Christmas wreaths with metal in them also are not usable he said because it would take too much effort so they end up throwing them out.

“Last year we chipped a little over 70,000 at our Mulchfest sites but I think overall between Sanitation and Parks we collected in the neighborhood of about 170,000 trees,” said Kavanugh. “This year we’re hoping to top that number.” 

On Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm there will be 36 chipping locations and 47 drop-off locations in all five boroughs.

Residents are welcome to take a bag of mulch home with them even if they do not bring a tree. At a number of sites there will be refreshments and education given on other composting opportunities in the city. 

For a full list of locations visit nycgovparks.org/highlights/festivals/mulchfest or call 311.

Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK