‘Tis the season: UK researchers find use for discarded Christmas trees

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In the United Kingdom, researchers at the University of Sheffield say they have developed a way to convert old Christmas trees into products such as paint and sweeteners.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 7-8 million trees end up in landfills despite local Christmas tree recycling programs. There, decomposing needles release greenhouse gases.

UoS’s Cynthia Kartey, however, says she and her team have developed a way to break down the lignocellulose in pine needles into useful bio-oil and bio-char.

“My research has been focused on the breakdown of this complex structure into simple, high-valued industrial chemical feedstocks such as sugars and phenolics, which are used in products like household cleaners and mouthwash,” Kartey tells Earth.com. “Biorefineries would be able to use a relatively simple but unexplored process to break down the pine needles.”