Even before the holidays, Larry Braasch can usually tell which type of Christmas tree is popular: artificial or fresh cut.
The Dundee Township Highway Commission has been offering free Christmas tree recycling for 15 Decembers and Januarys.
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"When the weather in the weeks leading to Christmas is mild and dry, people buy fresh-cut trees," Braasch said. "When they are cold, snowy, or wet, people put up artificial trees. They don't want to mess around with the cold."
After Christmas, he learns if his predictions are true by the number of residents who drop of their trees behind the Route 72 township highway garage. It's at the corner of Sleepy Hollow Road.
As many as 900 trees could be put on the pile and chipped in mild Decembers, he said. That pile won't be so high in snowy holiday seasons. His department could net 600-700 trees then.
Regardless of the weather, the number of trees his employees turn into mulch keeps that many from rotting in landfills when left at the side of the curb to be pick up by waste haulers.
These days, though, that is becoming a rare occurrence because many municipalities have struck deals with their waste haulers to recycle the trees they collect at the curb.
Algonquin, East Dundee, Elgin, Gilberts, and West Dundee are a handful of cities and villages in Northern Illinois that use the wood from trees long after the holidays.
Braasch gives the chips his employees create to the township park district. In turn, its employees use them for mulch or on walking trails. Wood chips are also used in Dundee Township open space sites.
As with every recycling program, Braasch makes one request when people drop of their Christmas trees.
"All we ask is that people take all the ornaments, garland and lights off them. The trees should be clean when they come here," he said. "People drop them off behind the garage 24 hours a day."
His recycling program ends Jan. 15. Programs in other municipalities continue until the middle of January.
For details about Christmas tree recycling in Kane County, visit www.countyofkane.org/Recycling/Pages/christmastreerecycling.