LONG BEACH - Most Christmas trees are thrown out or chopped into mulch at the end of the holiday season, but in Long Beach, some formerly festive conifers are now serving a higher purpose.

Long Beach officials and volunteers are launching a coastline restoration project today. They're aiming to replenish the beaches by piling up 3,000 Christmas trees to build up the dunes that were lost to the storm.

Experts say that when the trees are placed down in the sand, the branches act as a natural sand-catcher and the grains of sand will eventually pile up to form small hills. The work will also keep sand from blowing into beach-front homes.

Project organizer Eileen Downing said she came up with the idea after doing some research online. She found that Christmas trees are being used in similar coastal restoration projects around the country.

Most of the Christmas trees used in the dune restoration project were donated by Home Depot.

While the tree project is under way, the city is still sifting and cleaning tons of sand from the streets that were washed up by Superstorm Sandy. Once the sand quality is tested and deemed safe, it will be dumped back on the beach.