What to do with Christmas Trees

Thanh -- December 27th, 2007

I’ve had a few people ask me today about what they should do with their Christmas trees. I know that the City has a curbside pick up program for the trees, but I went ahead and did some further investigation. This is what I found: 

Option 1: Harrisonburg City residents who receive City trash services can place their trees curbside for pickup during the week of January 7-11. Trees picked up during this week are chipped by the City’s Public Works Department and used as mulching material by the Department of Parks & Recreation for landscaping on City properties (WHSV). Excess material will be taken to the County Landfill and used as cover. (Note that the City does NOT pick up Christmas trees from apartment complexes or private roads.)

Option 2: After the week of Jan 7-11, City residents wishing to get rid of their trees can place them curbside on Wednesdays for weekly yard debris pick up. These trees and brush materials however do not get chipped for landscaping, but instead are sent to the County Landfill for disposal. I am told that the landfill used to collect organic debris and compost them, but decided recently to put all organic materials into the landfill to build up methane gases for the new RMH Hospital. (Side thought: Although I’m all about harvesting methane gas from landfills because it is a great resource and it takes care of a greenhouse gas, I’m not sure if putting all organics into the landfill instead of keeping them out of the landfill and composting them is the best idea. I’m not sure which has greater environmental benefit or which creates the greastest environmental harm; it’s kind of like the paper versus plastic debate – does anyone have any thoughts or information to share on this issue?).

Option 3: If you live in an apartment complex you probably receive trash service from a private hauler. Call your private hauler or your property manager and ask them whether they pick up the trees and how. If you live on a private road and receive trash service from a private hauler, call them also to inquire if they will take your trees and how.

Option 4: If you have a spot in your yard that is out of view from your neighbors, or if your neighbors don’t mind seeing your decomposing tree, drag your tree out there and let it naturally decompose. This will take years to decompose in its whole state, but these brush piles could be good habitat for birds and wildlife in the area

Option 5: If you have a compost pile in your yard, consider using a chipper to chip your tree and add the chips to the compost. The smaller the chips the faster they will decompose and turn into a wonderful natural fertilizer.  

Option 6: If you wish, you can use a chipper to chip your tree and use the chips for your own landscaping needs. I believe that Home Depot rents chippers, and for households who wish to save some money, ask your nieghbors if they want to share the chipper and rental costs with you.

Option 7: Save the dry branches for kindling, they work great.

Option 8: City and County residents can take the trees to the County Landfill. I’m not sure what the rates are for County residents are, but for City residents there is a $17.00 minimum charge (for up to 500 lbs). 

I asked around at the Shenandoah Valley Soil & Water Conservation District and with the Virginia Cooperative Extension in Rockingham County and niether are aware of any programs at local parks that take old trees and make them into habitat like the ones described in these articles. However, if an hburgnews reader is aware of such a local program, please let us know!

Anyway, I hope this information is helpful.

* Editor’s Note: I was informed by a friend today who had made an inquiry to the Rockingham County Public Works Director and found out that they do not throw trees and brush material that were collected separately from trash directly into the landfill. The trees and brush are chipped and used for landscaping purposes and also used as daily cover over the landfill. I didn’t ask her if they had a compost pile still or not, or if they used all the materials collected for landscaping, daily cover, and other purposes, so I don’t know the answer to that one.

6 Responses to “What to do with Christmas Trees”

  1. Deb SF says:

    Chipping is a great option; we had let a number of holly trees get completely out of control on our property, right around the house, growing up against the drainspouts. Over the course of a few weekends this fall, we cut everything back to manageable levels. We picked one dry Saturday, rented a chipper from Rockingham Rental and turned the whole huge mess into a tidy pile of mulch, which we then distributed under those same radically trimmed-back holly trees. Kinda cannibalistic, but maybe it’ll teach them a lesson. Once you let yourself forget that scene towards the end of Fargo, chipping’s sort of fun.;-)

    Rockingham Rental, Lowes and Home Depot all rent chippers.

  2. Justin says:

    Grottoes has a brush pile for things like bush clippings, tree limbs, and I’m guessing even whole trees. You probably have to live there to use it. No one ever checks window stickers, but they do have a camera on a telephone pole for the people in the recycling center to watch you.

    I bet no one would complain if you took your tree there. It’s just an open field with like-piled groups of natural waste.

  3. finnegan says:

    Thanks for the info, Thanh. I know a few people who live in apartments who were wondering what to do with their trees. They didn’t like my suggestion — put it in a closet and re-use it next year.

  4. David Miller says:

    Or you could use my trick for disposal. Put the tree in an area that you would like to turn into a flower bed. Leave said x-mas tree for a year or more. Wait for tree to lose leaves and allow for partial decomposition. Remove remnants of tree to burn in New Years pyre. Voila, new flower bed that will inhibit the growth of weeds due to the acidic nature of decomposing pine leaves, and the fires are fantatstic.

  5. David Miller says:

    Thanh, thank you for including so much information and links into this post.

  6. Thanh says:

    I made an edit to the post above. (Strikethrough and editors note.)

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