Christmas trees are collected curbside in San Francisco. Credit: SFGate.com
In many American cities, nothing quite marks the end of the holiday season (or the beginning of the New Year) like gutters strewn with discarded Christmas trees.
But for the past 25 years, the city of San Francisco has been breathing new life into these signs of yester-yule with Recology’s “Treecycling” Program — an initiative that not only rescues Christmas castoffs from the local landfill but goes one step further by chipping the trees into valuable biomass, which can be used for things like renewable fuels.
According to Bob Besso, Recology’s waste reduction and recycling manager, who spoke with the Bay Citizen about the program, more than 500 tons of Christmas trees were collected in San Francisco in 2010.
Because of fir trees’ high acid content, they shouldn’t be mixed with regular compost, so turning the trees into wood chips is the preferred, if not perfect, alternative.
While the chipping process does result in air pollutants, it’s superior to allowing the trees to decompose, which would produce methane and 21 times the gases associated with chipping, according to Kevin Danaher, outreach and communication program manager with San Francisco Department of the Environment.
Perhaps the best solution for a city constantly on the cutting edge of eco-friendly practices? Renting fresh, if unconventional, Christmas trees that can be replanted following the holiday season through organizations such as Friends of the Urban Forest (the program was so popular, it sold out in 2011).
Still, fans of tradition and the environment can rest a little easier knowing that the fresh-cut variety can fuel more than the holiday spirit thanks to Treecycling efforts. To learn more about the program and to read the full story, vist The Bay Citizen online.