Aila Piekkola and grandchild Robin Norrby, 9, took a Christmas tree to the rubbish on Sunday. Finns bought and decorated some 1.5 million Christmas trees again this year. Marking the end of the Christmas festivities, Epiphany is the time when people traditionally discard their Christmas trees in the housing company waste disposal areas.

On Sunday, Aila Piekkola and her 9-year-old grandson Robin Norrby from Helsinki took decorations off Piekkola’s Christmas tree and left the bare tree by the waste bin as recommended.

"Epiphany means that Christmas is over and it’s time to put all the Christmas decorations away,” says Piekkola.

After Christmas, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) collects around 50,000 to 60,000 discarded Christmas trees in the capital area.

The trees, collected when biowaste containers are emptied, are taken to the Ämmässuo composting facility in Espoo, where they are turned into woodchips used as filler for biowaste composts. 

“Woodchips are necessary for an efficient composting process,” explains Seppo Kajaste, environmental expert from HSY.

According to Kajaste, woodchips obtained from Christmas trees meet the facility’s needs for a couple of weeks, with some 40,000 tons of biowaste treated annually.

In Helsinki, the Sortti stations accept Christmas trees free of charge until the end of January.

On Sunday, the waste disposal areas of housing companies in Katajanokka and Arabianranta in Helsinki contained several Christmas trees, with up to ten trees piled up in some places.

This Christmas, the number of Christmas trees acquired from privately owned forests was slightly higher than usual, according to Hanna Holma, chair of the Finnish Christmas tree association.

"There was no snow at Christmas and the storms we had at the end of the year fell trees just in time for Christmas.” 

Despite this, the vast majority of Christmas trees are bought from growers with the estimated number of trees cut down by forest owners for own use amounting to about 300,000 trees.

Even though Epiphany is a religious holiday, for many it just means an extra day off.

For Tuija and Ari Mikonranta, who are waiting for a tram on Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki holding take-away pizza boxes, Epiphany is a day to be spent with family and friends.

”We had a little do with children and friends on Saturday and packed away all the Christmas decorations. Epiphany marks the end of Christmas,” Tuija says.

Sanna Jompero – HS
Niina Woolley – HT

Image: Benjamin Suomela