• Ventura County Star: Eye on the Environment - Getting to bottom of Christmas tree flocking eco-mystery - Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at

  • David Goldstein
    Ventura County Star
    By Dec 14, 2014

    "Flocking" is a strange-sounding word for the subject of an ecological debate. Flocking as an environmental issue does not represent flocks of birds, but rather is the term for a snow-like decoration on a Christmas tree.

    Flocking is sprayed onto the needles of pines and firs, simulating trees in climates far colder than ours. According to local Christmas tree sellers, flocking with "high intensity colors" is also gaining popularity. People are increasingly having their trees sprayed with hues such as red, purple, pink and yellow. Even black trees are gaining a fraction of market share against traditional white flocking. Answers about the environmental consequences of flocking depend on whom you ask, and the subject seems fraught with misperceptions. Untangling the mystery of recycling flocked Christmas trees sheds light on issues of public perception, producer responsibility and recycling
    For years, local public agencies and private refuse haulers included in their holiday messages a warning not to recycle flocked trees. Compost and mulch makers, such as Agromin, were concerned about endangering their organic certification, and no one wanted to risk contaminating loads of recycled trees with chemicals from a comparably few undesirable trees. While tens of thousands of Christmas trees were regularly recycled each year in Ventura County, hundreds of flocked trees were sent to landfills.

    In accordance with instructions from private refuse haulers and public recycling coordinators, homeowners cut flocked trees into pieces and diligently placed them into trash carts instead of yard waste recycling carts. Trees dropped off at official sites were also segregated, with flocked trees sent to landfills and non-flocked ones given a second life as mulch.

    But last year, Dave Lidren, who works for Agromin during most of the year and operates Big Wave Dave's Christmas Tree Lots the rest of the year, convincingly presented the Christmas tree flocking industry's case. Harrison Industries and Agromin, its affiliated compost company, agreed to accept flocked trees this year, and some of the public agencies managing areas where the Harrison companies haul refuse have altered their messages.

    What changed? According to Lidren and his supplier, Mark "Tito" Anthony, nothing changed with the flocking itself, only the dyes and adhesives may have changed. Anthony manufactures the flocking material used by Lidren and claims it is 98 percent wood pulp.

    "It’s like paper," he said. The other 2 percent, he said, is adhesive, dye and nontoxic boron for flame retardant.

    I followed up regarding the adhesive and dye, and he referred me to supplier Greg Szuba, vice president of Peak Seasons Inc.

    Szuba first said much of the flocking is made from cotton-based pulp instead of paper, the adhesive is made from corn starch (supplied by Ingredion Inc. in Los Angeles) and the dye is made by Keystone Aniline Inc. in Chicago.

    Rick Stover, senior technical sales representative at Keystone, showed me safety sheets stating the dyes are nontoxic.

    Nevertheless, Dave Green, who manages organic certification for Agromin's main compost site near Oxnard, remains on the lookout for flocked trees. He cited strict standards his company must follow to retain its organic certification. Even the corn starch could be a problem unless it can be certified free of genetically modified organisms, as is the product used by Big Wave Dave's.

    Last year, just a week before Christmas, Green first heard news of the initiative to remove prohibitions on recycling flocked trees. This year, Green is optimistic all the trees he receives will be diverted from area landfills. He plans to segregate flocked trees and make them into mulch or biofuel, rather than certified organic compost.

    The verdict: To ensure your tree is as recyclable as possible, avoid flocking. If you do flock, keep your eye on the environment and recycle your tree in your yard waste cart, rather than disposing it in your refuse cart.

    David Goldstein is an environmental resource analyst for the county of Ventura. Representatives of government or nonprofit agencies who want to submit articles on environmental topics for this column should contact Goldstein at 658-4312 or david.goldstein@ventura.org.

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  • Bill Camarillo And Five Others Join Cal Lutheran Board of Regents - Thursday, December 11, 2014 at

  • Six new members have joined the California Lutheran University Board of Regents.

    The new regents are Long Beach resident the Rev. Jim Bessey, a Cal Lutheran alumnus and interim pastor of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church; Oxnard resident Bill Camarillo, CEO of Agromin; Minneapolis resident the Rev. Mark Hanson, a distinguished fellow at Augsburg College and former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Palo Alto resident Judy Larsen, retired vice president for worldwide research operations at Dataquest; Thousand Oaks resident Carrie Nebens, president of Equis Staffing; and Santa Ynez resident George "Corky" Ullman, a Cal Lutheran alumnus and owner of Ullman Brothers Land & Cattle Company. They will serve three-year terms on the 34-member board responsible for guiding the policies of the university.

    The following regents were re-elected to three-year terms: Port Hueneme resident Theodore Jensen, a retired flight test engineer with Hughes Aircraft; Newbury Park resident Rick Lemmo, senior vice president for community relations at Caruso Affiliated; Los Angeles resident Bill Krantz, former principal of Boston Partners Asset Management; Thousand Oaks resident Susan Lundeen-Smuck, a Cal Lutheran alumna and vice president for human resources at Kythera Biopharmaceuticals Inc.; and Calabasas resident Deborah Sweeney, CEO and president of MyCorporation.

    Cal Lutheran is a selective university based in Thousand Oaks, California, with additional locations in Oxnard, Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, Santa Maria and Berkeley. With an enrollment of 4,200 students, Cal Lutheran offers undergraduate and graduate programs through its College of Arts and Sciences, School of Management, Graduate School of Education, Graduate School of Psychology and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Members of the Cal Lutheran student body come from across the nation and around the world and represent a diversity of faiths and cultures. For more information, visit CalLutheran.edu.

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