Residents placed their trees curbside for collection in January to participate in the Christmas Tree Recycling Program. There was a 37% increase in recycled Christmas trees in 2021 – the City's Department of Sanitation filled 59 trucks full of trees. The 2020 Christmas Tree Drop did not occur due to limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 Christmas Tree Drop includes the trees collected for the 2020 Christmas Tree Drop.
The bundled trees were airlifted by the Louisiana National Guard into the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to create new marsh habitat. After the trees were dropped by helicopter, workers came by boat to move them to their final position. Over the course of this program, recycled Christmas trees have restored an area of marsh equal to almost 200 football fields. The trees also create an important habitat for birds, fish, crabs, crawfish, and shrimp.
The transporting of the trees via helicopter provides the Louisiana Army National Guard a valuable training exercise. The City’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability provides funding and collaborates with the Department of Sanitation for this effort. This program has been running for over 20 years and serves an important role in the City’s coastal program.
In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other participating agencies included the City of New Orleans Department of Sanitation, the National Wildlife Federation, Leaaf Environmental, and the Louisiana Army National Guard.
Meanwhile, Gainey's donated more than 40 truckloads of concrete to the Coastal Conservation Association’s REEF Louisiana Program to replace the lost oil and gas platform habitat in a former speckled trout hotspot in Plaquemines Parish. This is one of 9 reefs CCA plans to build across Louisiana in the coming months. These projects are aimed at replacing the fisheries habitats that are lost when oil and gas platforms are removed.
Some of the materials, including recycled highway material, catch basins and concrete construction structures, were lowered into the water where they will become habitat for speckled trout, redfish and other important marine species.
Tim Sander from Gainey’s said his company was proud to be part of this important effort. “This is the first project that we have participated in with CCA, and we are so pleased that it has come together so well,” said Sander. “We had a large amount of this material taking up space in our yard, so when we heard about CCA’s REEF Program, it seemed like a natural fit. We’ve always been dedicated to the community, and the ability to help build new marine habitat like this is wonderful.”
The reefs are being built on a former speckled trout fishing hotspot where an iconic oil and gas platform, known by many as “The Green Monster,” was recently removed.
The City’s Christmas Tree Recycling Program has helped restore the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge for over 25 years. We are grateful to our residents who chose to recycle their Christmas trees, putting them to good use protecting our wetlands while also keeping them out of landfills. We look forward to many more years of community involvement in coastal restoration efforts
— Katie Donahue, Coastal Resilience Program Manager, Office of Resilience and Sustainability, City of New Orleans.
Thanks to this recycling project, the wetland ecosystem that helps protect the city during storm events, shelters native wildlife and provides migratory waterfowl habitat will be revitalized by Orleans parish sustainability efforts
— Shelley Stiaes, Refuge Manager, Bayou Sauvage.
Every year recycled Christmas trees from New Orleans residents are placed in strategic locations out in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge to help reduce wave action, slow erosion, and protect the natural marsh and shoreline. The trees also trap sediments that over time help create new habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. At a time when protecting and restoring our natural resources and defenses is more important than ever, the Christmas tree recycling program is a great way for communities to get involved in restoring the coast
— Samantha Carter, Outreach Manager, Gulf Program, National Wildlife Federation.
The wetlands of Louisiana have always had a special place in my heart; the best memories of my childhood were created fishing with family in Louisiana’s rich waters. When I saw the old structures that were taking up space in our laydown yard, my mind immediately thought of turning them into a reef
— Tim Sander