Renewable energy from Christmas trees

Reusing Christmas trees after the holidays for energy production has become a tradition in Pécs

Christmas trees discarded after the holidays contribute as green energy to the district heating of the households in Pécs. The most efficient practice of recycling has become a 15-year old tradition in the town, since the power plant, run by Pannon Hőerőmű Zrt. member of the Veolia Group, which provides district heating for nearly 31,500 homes and 480 public institutions, burns the used Christmas trees in the biomass fired boilers. Almost 2 million Christmas trees are set up for the holidays in Hungary, a quantity that can heat more than 15 thousand homes for a month in any region of the country.

Before the holidays, people are excited to decorate their trees for Christmas, but as soon as New Year comes, the Christmas trees become unwanted and are thrown out into the streets. A large number of trees are dumped on the streets in the weeks January, but in Pécs, the trees are not wasted, but rather turned into valuable green energy. Thanks to the recycling program launched by Pannon Hőerőmű Zrt., the Christmas trees contribute, even if only symbolically, to the warmth of the homes for the second time in the form of district heating.

The trees are collected between the 6th and 31st of January by the local waste utility company, but the trees can be deposited at the waste disposal plants even after this date. Based on previous years’ experiences the power plant will reuse around 40 tons of Christmas trees. Citizens should make sure to remove every decoration, candy, garland and lights before placing the trees beside the waste collecting bins in such a way so they do not disturb pedestrian and vehicle traffic, or safe parking. It is especially important to remove the metal stands and the fixation elements from the tree trunks, thus making shredding easier.

We initiate the reuse of Christmas trees condemned to be discarded every year, because this is the most sustainable and energy saving practice for the citizens of the town. The high resin content of the trees does not make them compostable, so they should not be placed in landfills. In the power plant’s fuel yard, we can chip these trees with mobile equipment, then transfer the product into the bulk fuel handling unit. Because of its high resin content, we mix the pinewood with other fuels, such as agricultural by-products and forest woodchips, and burn the mix in the boilers of the power plant.  I would like to emphasize the many advantages of biomass use, because this solution allows us to produce a hundred percent green energy” – added Péter Rudolf, the CEO of Pannon Hőerőmű Zrt., operating the power plant of Pécs.

In Hungary, almost 2 million Christmas trees are set up for the holidays, a quantity that could ensure heat for more than 15 thousand homes for a month in any region of the country. This practice could be applied in many towns and cities for tens of thousands of households in the country, where district heating is provided by a biomass-fired installation. The recycling of Christmas trees by Pannon Hőerőmű Zrt. is a good example of circular economy that the citizens of Pécs can count on in the future too.