Chipping Away an Old Tradition in San Francisco

Bright futures await discarded Christmas trees

By Jessica Greene
|  Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009  |  Updated 7:11 AM PDT
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San Francisco waste employees will be collecting discarded Christmas trees and turning them into wood chips for use at a waste-to-energy facility.

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Just when it was starting to smeel so good in the house, it's time to take down and discard of the Christmas tree.

But environmentally-friendly San Francisco isn't just letting the old trees wither and turn into a pile of dry debris. They're asking everyone to think small when it comes to their Christmas trees -- turning the big tree into small pieces.

San Francisco residents can leave their Douglas fir or Scottish pine Christmas trees on the curb to be recycled on their regularly scheduled pickup day. The trees will take one final journey in their full form to a recycling center near Candlestick Park, where they will meet the wood chipper.

Chipped trees will eventually end up as boiler fuel in a waste-to-energy facility in Tracy.

Turning the trees into chips is a San Francisco tradition in its 23rd year now.

"It's not as old as the Christmas tree tradition," environmental department employee Hilary Near told the Chronicle, "but at least since the city has had its zero waste goal."

Christmas tree collection will take place Monday through Friday the starting Jan. 4 through Jan 15. Residents can also drop off trees until Jan 15 at Golden Gate Disposal and Recycling facilities.

Last year, San Francisco collected more than 500 tons of Christmas trees.

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