Chris Winkley drops a Christmas tree off at Payson Park in Portland on Monday Dec. 27, 2021. The park is listed on Ecomaine's online database of sustainable holiday tree disposal sites. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine – The big day is over. Once-bulging stockings, hung with care, are thin and empty again. The mounds of shredded wrapping paper are gone.

You are now probably saying farewell to the evergreen that has occupied a place of honor in your living room for the past month, bringing joy and light into the longest nights of the year. It was a good Christmas tree but now it’s shedding dry needles at an alarming rate.

Your holiday timber can still bring more joy to the world when it gets shredded, chipped, ground up, mulched or composted at one of 40 sites listed on Ecomaine’s new online, interactive map of sustainable tree-disposal sites. The list includes locations throughout the nearly 70 municipalities served by the member-owned recycling and waste-to-energy operation, from Belfast to New Hampshire.

“We wanted to come up with a way to keep more waste out of Maine landfills,” said Katrina Bussiere-Venhuizen, the Ecomaine senior environmental educator who invented the tool. “A lot of times, trees are thrown away or burned, when they could be used again as wood chips or compost. We hope this tool is a win-win for residents and sustainability in Maine.”

Ecomaine – originally known as Regional Waste Systems – was founded in 1976 by the municipalities of Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Scarborough and South Portland in response to a new Maine law calling for the closing of privately owned landfills. By 1985, the regional organization had grown to 20 municipalities.

The waste-to-energy plant was built in 1988 and recycling was added in 1990. Ecomaine now recycles or incinerates 90 percent of waste it receives, using its landfill as a last resort.

Member towns with 2021 Christmas tree recycling locations include Portland, Belfast, Rockland, Waterville and Fryeburg.

“While this list is not comprehensive for the entire state, it is a good start to promote readily-available sustainable endings for a fairly common waste item at this time of year,” said Matt Grondin, Ecomaine’s communications manager. “We welcome additions to the database, to continue to increase similar solutions for this year and years to come.”

As for all that wrapping paper, some of it can be recycled, according to Ecomaine. If it is wax or foil coated, it cannot. But a majority of coatings are now plastic and can be recycled right in your regular recycling bin.

The sustainable holiday tree disposal map and list can be found at ecomaine.org.

While Bangor isn’t included on Ecomaine’s map, residents can recycle their Christmas trees by dropping them off at the Bangor Public Works facility at 530 Maine Ave. during daylight hours. Residents can also place their trees curbside. Pickup starts Monday and will run through Jan. 14.

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.