The Evolution of Mulchfest
Long ago, most trees ended up on the curb and often wrapped in plastic, which is how they are generally taken out of buildings to avoid needle droppage. These bagged trees eventually made their way to landfill sites. In the early 1990s, the Sanitation Department started to run special pickups to bring the city’s thousands of discarded pines to one of four designated chipping sites where the trees were turned into mulch. If you’ve ever gardened, you’ll know that mulch—generally comprised of decaying leaves, bark, or compost—is spread around plants to enrich and insulate the soil.
In the early years, the city’s tree recycling program wasn’t particularly popular. As city residents became increasingly environmentally conscious, however, the program started to take off. By 2007, the city’s tree mulching locations had expanded from a mere four to over 60. But in true New York style, it wasn’t enough to simply have a day or two when one could bring their tree to a mulching site. Instead, the City decided to turn their annual mulching ritual into a festival known as Mulchfest.
In 2018, over 25,000 pines were turned into mulch during NYC Mulchfest. This year, the city hopes to recycle even more trees and create a lot more mulch.