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Local nonprofits offer creative, constructive ways to unload unwanted holiday decorations

SALISBURY — It will be Christmas in January for the big cats and primates at Tiger World in Rockwell.

With the holidays now over, Tiger World is accepting live Christmas trees in exchange for one free admission to the nonprofit animal preserve.

“After Christmas, people just throw out their Christmas trees, but we can use them as enrichment items for our animals,” said Aubrey Taylor, director of wildlife at Tiger World.

The trees, formerly decorated and standing in living rooms across the county, will be rolled into enclosures and serve as playthings for the big cats. The trees are coveted by the tigers and primates for both their smell and feel.

“It’s a great new toy introduction to their habitat every year,” Taylor said. “The cats and primates love to sniff and scratch the evergreen trees. It’s extremely entertaining for them.”

Taylor said that each individual animal reacts differently to the trees, but almost every animal is excited to play with them. Tiger World currently boasts around 100 animals from 10 different species. There are about 25 tigers at the preserve, each of which will get a chance to roll around with their own Christmas tree.

Taylor said Tiger World would appreciate if people stripped the trees of any decorations or tinsel. Flocked trees are not accepted. Before the trees are turned over to the animals, Tiger World staff members will also clean the trees of anything that would be potentially harmful. Trees will be accepted through Jan. 17.

Tiger World is open every day of the week except for Wednesday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

People who are looking for another way to disperse their Christmas tree can also take it to a nearby body of water. It’s a common practice of fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere to drop fir trees in ponds or rivers. Once the trees settle on the bottom, they can help create habitat for fish and other important aquatic life. 

However, Brian Fannon, riverkeeper for the Yadkin Riverkeeper organization, said that people should reach out to a representative from North Carolina Wildlife before dumping a tree in a pond or river. The tree also should be free of any decorations or lights.

Tiger World isn’t the only local nonprofit organization who is happy to accept people’s old holiday decorations. Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary is currently gathering people’s unwanted or broken Christmas lights. The nonprofit organization, which was founded in 2007 as a haven for dogs and cats without a home, will turn in the used Christmas lights for cash.

The lights are collected by the Faithful Friends can team, which collects aluminum cans throughout the year to raise money.

“We thought, hey this is a good way to keep them out of the landfill and it helps our cause as well,” said Lora Owen, who volunteers with the can team.

The can and Christmas lights collection isn’t Faithful Friends’ primary funding source, but Mary Padavick, the organization’s director, said that every bit counts.

“The way this organization started, Anne Ingram ingrained in us that no donation is too small,” Padavick said. “Some people don’t have anything to give but Christmas lights.”

Owen said that the can team has raised almost $75,000 for Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary since it started collecting aluminum cans and Christmas lights about 12 years ago.

It’s not unusual, Owen said, for people to donate lights up until the spring. In 2020, Faithful Friends received unwanted lights throughout the year.

“In 2020, people were really cleaning out their houses, attics and garages,” Padavick said. “We saw them all of last year.”

Unwanted Christmas lights and aluminum cans can be dropped off at the following locations:

Uptown Cats and Dogs Grooming (all hours drop-off) – this site has been relocated to the West End Plaza, on the Belk side of the old mall.

Hudson-Miller-Tatum VFW Post #3006 (all hours drop-off) – 1200 Brenner Ave.

The Garden Greenhouse (drop-off during business hours) – 4070 Woodleaf Road.

Speedwash Laundromat No. 3 (drop-off during business hours only) – 1337 W. Innes St.

Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary – 220 Grace Church Road.

Critters Cards and Gifts – 125 S. Main St.

Faithful Friends accepts all kinds of string lights, from LEDs to old fashioned bulbs. It doesn’t even matter if the bulbs are broken, Owen said.

Rules for Christmas recycling

For those who wish to use Rowan County’s recycling services to unload their old Christmas decorations and other holiday waste, Environmental Management Director Caleb Sinclair has a few guidelines.

The county does accept live Christmas trees at its convenience center at 665 Campbell Road in Woodleaf. Those trees will be mulched and turned into chips that the county will use. Plastic trees are not accepted and are considered a waste item, Sinclair said. The city of Salisbury’s limb collection team does collect trees curbside, but all decorations must be removed.

The county also encourages people to recycle corrugated cardboard that may be stockpiled from Christmas gifts. Sinclair said that the amount of cardboard Rowan County recycling has received has skyrocketed with more people relying on e-commerce this year due to COVID-19.

The county, Sinclair said, does not want people to attempt to recycle wrapping paper. Christmas lights, while happily accepted by Faithful Friends, are not happily accepted by Rowan County recycling. Sinclair said that the lights are known as “tanglers” and create problems for the machines the county uses during the recycling sorting process.

More information about Rowan County recycling can be found online at rowancountync.gov/533/recycling.

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