The Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) has recently announced the abrupt cessation of curbside Christmas tree pickup, citing a clarification from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that deems holiday trees as yard waste rather than household decorations. This change in interpretation, according to DPW, emanates from the DNR’s recent clarification, making trees subject to a yard waste landfill ban established by a 1980s law.
However, the DNR subsequently clarified that it has not communicated any recent changes to Milwaukee and suggested that a difference in interpretation might be behind the city’s decision. Kate Strom Hiorns from the DNR highlighted that Milwaukee’s interpretation may differ from that of other municipalities in the state, prompting discussions between the DNR and the city in early 2023 to address the violation, including the possibility of ending curbside pickup.
Brad Wolbert of the DNR emphasized the space concerns and the value of yard waste outside of landfills, such as its potential use as compost. The DPW responded to inquiries, stating that all aspects would be addressed at Monday’s Public Works meeting. The City is convening a special meeting on December 11 to discuss the new DPW policy.
With curbside pickup halted, the city plans to offer two Drop Off Centers and establish temporary sites from January 11 to January 15, 2024. Trees will only be accepted if decorations are removed. The existing Drop Off Centers operate from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with locations at 3879 W Lincoln Avenue (South) and 6660 N Industrial Road (North, entering Industrial Road from Mill Road).
Temporary locations for tree drop-offs, to be announced by DPW this month, are in the works. DPW emphasized the removal of decorations for tree acceptance. Meanwhile, the DNR is investigating whether other municipalities may have different interpretations of the law and are disposing of trees in landfills. Neighboring cities like Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay reported recycling their trees for years.