Now Christmas is over, spare a thought for the humble trees that were the centre of attention in December.
Just a couple of weeks later thousands of them have made their way to landfill, along with the decorations that adorned them through the festive season.
Deputy general manager of Resource Recovery Australia, Ally Glendenning, says there are a couple of reasons behind the annual influx of Christmas trees to the region’s tips.
“One is a problem in the market,” she said.
“There are so many poor-quality trees you can buy for $20-$30; the feet break, and they end up at the tip.
“The other is trends, so pink trees or white trees, that age really quickly.”
Most commercial Christmas trees are made almost entirely of plastic, so they don’t break down, and add to landfill, as well as shedding microplastics into the environment.
Luckily for the Illawarra, and the planet, the Reviva store at Dunmore gives dumped trees a new lease on life.
The store sells Christmas decorations, including trees, year-round.
“Through the year our Christmas section grows and grows, then around the middle of the year we sell some for Christmas in July,” Ally said.
“By October trees start walking out the door and by Christmas Eve we have no decorations left in any of our shops.”
The creativity of Reviva staff is a big part of the reason the stores are so effective at recycling unloved Christmas trees.
“Some people like to have an extra tree to put up on the verandah, and the ones with broken feet we strip down and turn into boughs that can be used to decorate all sorts of events,” Ally said.
“We make little trees and cakes or heart shapes out of baubles and things so they can decorate birthdays.
“At Christmastime we create displays and we encourage people to put up an old tree on the verandah as well as inside the house, give it another life.”
The team also run information sessions about how to have a more sustainable Christmas – because even better than recycling is reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place.
Ally had a few tips for households looking to reduce their waste at the most magical time of year.
Her first one?
“Buy quality, whether it’s trees or decorations,” she said.
“You want a good tree you can keep that lasts 10 to 15 years – that’s the ultimate in reuse.
“If you buy sustainable decorations in the first place they might cost a little more, but you’ll be more willing to keep them.
“Buy neutral colours so you’re always on trend, and if you add to your collection each year get things that go with everything you already have, or something that changes the theme instead of the whole look, like pink bows instead of red bows.”
Next, she recommends getting organised.
“Pack your decorations properly, don’t just chuck them in a box,” she said.
“If you pack well you’re not having to drag out 10 boxes; it takes up less space in storage, and it’s less overwhelming.
“A lot of decorations you can pack in with the tree without removing them, and it makes it much easier to set up and pack down each year.”
When all else fails, and you just have to trash some festive gear?
“If you don’t want something anymore, please don’t send it to landfill – send it to a recycling facility like ours,” Ally said.