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Christmas Trees Once a Problem, Now a Boon to Toledo Landfill


The City of Toledo once had a problem with the disposal of the large volume of Christmas trees collected after the holidays each year.  It also had a problem with the unpleasant ammonia emissions produced by the biosolid material it wanted to use as a municipal landfill cover each day. Today, as a result of a simple and successful public-private partnership, neither is a problem.

For more than 10 years, Toledo has been using an alkaline stabilization process to treat municipal biosolids. The process produces an agricultural soil amendment and topsoil component, N-Viro Soil (NVS), which is available commercially from Toledo’s landfill partner, N-Viro International.

In a 1998 demonstration project, NVS was used by the City as an alternative daily landfill cover. Through this project it was learned that while the physical characteristics of the product made it suitable as a cover, the ammonia odor it generated posed a problem for the landfill operators.

Previous research done for N-Viro International indicated that chipped pine boughs could reduce ammonia emissions from alkaline stabilized biosolid products. As it happened, the City had access to a large volume of pine boughs, and it had a strong desire to use them: The pine trees collected after Christmas each year consumed valuable space in the landfill, space needed for the disposal of non-recyclable materials.

Early in 1999, another demonstration project was conducted at the City’s landfill, this one using NVS to cover the landfill and chipped Christmas trees to cover and blend with it. Within three days of mixing and applying the NVS and pine chip mix, ammonia emissions had decreased by 78 percent; within 30 days they had decreased by 96 percent.

Based on this demonstration, which had been sanctioned by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, both Toledo’s Solid Waste Division and N-Viro International asked the agency for final approval to use the mix as an alternative daily landfill cover. Approval was received, full-scale use of the mix was started in January – and a public relations campaign is now encouraging Toledo residents to recycle their Christmas trees.

More detailed information on Toledo’s approach to recycling and landfill management is available from David Leffler, Acting Commissioner of the Division of Solid Waste, at (419) 936-2510.

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