To Flock or Not to Flock

For those longing for a white Christmas, many tree lots offer artificial snow flocking for a little extra glam. Before you think about flocking your tree with artificial snow, however, check with your local waste management company to see if they accept flocked trees for recycling. Each local jurisdiction manages Christmas tree recycling differently, says CalRecycle composting expert Elena Yates. “Some jurisdictions will not accept flocked trees, including the San Francisco Bay Area. Trees will be collected but they are not compostable.” A flocked tree is considered contaminated organic material, she explains, and “pretty much guarantees it will be landfilled.”

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It’s easy to see why when you read the ingredients in traditional flocking: chemical solvents, propellants, and flame retardants are not suitable for composting. Some say you could wash the flocking off your tree at the end of the season, but that seems impractical—especially in the middle of winter when it’s cold. Even if you do wash your tree, it’s difficult to know whether it will be clean enough for organics recycling, and you may have needlessly used another precious and limited resource—water—to do so. (And just where is that “rinse” water going, anyway?)

Some Christmas tree flocking products claim to be environmentally friendly. The ingredients are less harmful and include post-production paper cellulose and corn starch.  Rather than using chemical adhesives, they use plant starches as a natural glue. Still, your local jurisdiction may or may not accept flocked trees for recycling, even if you use environmentally friendly flocking, so check with them ahead of time.

— Christina Files
Posted on Dec 21, 2017

Summary: For those longing for a white Christmas, many tree lots offer artificial snow flocking for a little extra glam. Before you think about flocking your tree with artificial snow, however, check with your local waste management company to see if they accept flocked trees for recycling.