Christmas Tree Recycling

For over 25 years, the City of New Orleans has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Army National Guard in the annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program. New Orleans residents participate in the program by placing their trees curbside for collection each January. The recycled trees are placed in the wetlands at Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge to help protect the natural marsh and shoreline by reducing wave action and slowing erosion. The trees also create new habitats for the birds, fish, and other wildlife that live in the refuge. Diverting trees from the landfill aligns with the City of New Orleans’ Climate Action Plan to decrease the amount of waste going into the landfill and create habitat.

Each year, the City of New Orleans collects and recycles Christmas trees to help restore marshland habitat in nearby Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. After the holidays, residents can drop off their live trees at designated locations around the city. City workers then collect, sort, and bundle the trees before transporting them by truck to a staging area.

In an aerial operation, the Louisiana National Guard airlifts the trees into Bayou Sauvage using heavy-lift Chinook helicopters. The trees are dropped strategically onto open water or mudflats within the marsh. Staff from the wildlife refuge then use airboats to move the trees into their final position, arranging and anchoring them to stabilize the soil and provide structural habitat.

 

This innovative program provides an eco-friendly solution for post-holiday trees. Over the years, the recycled trees have restored marsh across an area equal to almost 200 football fields in Bayou Sauvage. The added tree structure helps reduce erosion and provides shelter and nesting spots for birds and fish.

To participate, residents must remove all decorations, ornaments, tinsel, and flocking from trees before drop-off. Only live, unflocked trees can be used in the marsh restoration effort. Through this community recycling initiative, the city gives Christmas trees a second life while revitalizing precious marshland ecosystem in coastal Louisiana.