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Give back by recycling your old Christmas tree

Many local non-profit groups are offering up their recycling services for a small donation to help with your post-holiday cleanup.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s goodbye holidays and hello to finding tiny pine needles in your house for the next month.

Yes, taking down the holiday lights, tree and decorations can be a drag. Luckily, local organizations are making at least one aspect of post-Christmas clean up a bit easier.

Take Scouts BSA Troops 71 and 571, for example. First, they sold Christmas trees. Now, they’re taking them back.

13-year-old Maya Scaramastra was sorting though wreathes and branches Saturday at the Peninsula Optimist tree lot in North Portland. Many of the customers she helped find the perfect tree before the holidays came back after to have it recycled

“It's really cool because actually, I think, I might have recognized a few of them. It was kind of cool,” she said.

For just $10 they're collecting, trimming, and recycling Christmas trees as part of their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Money raised allows kids like scout Casper Parsons to go to summer camp, explore on hiking trips, and earn merit badges through unique experiences.

“I can't wait to start going camping,” he said.

This year's Christmas tree sale and recycle fundraiser is even more important for this troop. You may remember this past summer; the troop’s trailer was stolen. It was filled with hiking and camping gear for the kids.

“We got our trailer back, but we are still missing gear and replacing gear,” Troop 571 Assistant Scout Master Jenna Stephens said.

The troops doubled in size this year as well. That means they'll need to raise even more money to give their new members new opportunities.

“You just never know where scouts will lead our youth, but along the way, the skills that they develop and the opportunities that they have are pretty incredible,” Stephens said.  

Troops 71 and 571 will be back recycling trees Sunday and next weekend, January 11 and 12.

Recycle your tree at the Peninsula Optimist Tree Lot and Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Portland.

While the scouts turn their recycled trees into mulch, Christmas trees are getting a new life in Milwaukie through the North Clackamas Watersheds Council.

“It's partially a fundraiser for us, but the real new is, in a couple of weeks we're going to put them into the creek where they become salmon habitat,” Executive Director Neil Schulman said.

On January 25, volunteers will place the recycled trees in the Willamette River to create a home for salmon. They’ll go in at Elk Rock Island and Spring Park.

Most creeks around the Portland Metro do not have enough wood, according to Schulman. Recycled Christmas trees are part of a long-term effort of restoration.

“A couple things happen. One of them is the young salmon will hang out under the branches. It gives them a place to hide from predators,” he said. “The other one is, the needles will collect insects and the insects will feed on the needles and the salmon will feed on the bugs.”

Whether you're doing it for the environment, the kids, or just to get those stray needles out of your house; there are plenty of ways to rid of the tree and give back.

Saturday was the final day to recycle your tree with the North Clackamas Watersheds Council. However, they are still looking for volunteers. Learn more at here.

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