Junking the trunk

Time to get rid of your Christmas tree? Recycle it.

If you’ve got free time, you can volunteer to help collect Christmas trees at one of KTMB’s collection sites by visiting the website: ktmb.org/volunteer.

Over the last 15 years, the nonprofit organization Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful has collected nearly 150,000 Christmas trees for recycling. With the help of thousands of volunteers and partner agencies—including Washoe County Parks and Open Spaces, the City of Reno, the City of Sparks and Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District—KTMB collects trees by the thousands each year (more than 10,000 last year). According to KTMB program manager Lorian McConnell, the goal is to keep dead Christmas trees from being dumped in landfills or in open spaces where they pose a significant fire risk as they dry out.

“The big reason is fire suppression—because if you just drop your tree out in the open spaces, it’ll dry up crazily,” McConnell said. “You know how dry it gets here. And then in July it could spark or just make fire travel faster. Last year, I feel like there was a big scare with all of the fires happening, so I really hope this year will be better and we’ll see some more trees coming through our recycling program.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Christmas tree collection program. Six locations in the valley will be opened for Christmas tree collection, starting Dec. 26 and continuing through Jan. 7. (Commercial Christmas tree vendors can take their leftover trees to RT Donovan, 11600 Pyramid Way, Sparks, 425-3015.)

After the program closes for the year, the Christmas trees will be put through wood chippers and turned into mulch. At two of the drop-off locations—Bartley Ranch Regional Park and Rancho San Rafael Regional Park—the public can pick up mulch for their own projects. The rest will be used for park beautification programs.

“It’ll go back into the parks, like Rancho, and it’ll help with weed abatement,” McConnell said. “It really helps with invasive weeds.”

There are a few rules for people to keep in mind when dropping off Christmas trees for recycling. Trees with decorations, nails or attached tree stands aren’t accepted.

“No tinsel, and then no flocking,” said McConnell.

Flocking, for those who don’t know, is spray-on imitation snow—and KTMB cannot accept trees that have been sprayed with it.

“It’s kind of trendy right now, I’ve noticed, on Instagram … and a lot of people will come and bring their cans that say, ‘It’s biodegradable, so it’s OK,'” McConnell said. “But, unfortunately, we can’t take those trees because it still gums up the chippers. And they’re not KTMB’s chippers. We’re borrowing them from the City of Sparks, and we’re using county and City [of Reno] chippers, as well.”

McConnell’s other advice: don’t try to bring yard clippings from other trees or plants on your property because they’re not accepted—and be sure to double-check the tree for ornaments.

“We get some really special ones, and we have no idea who they belong to, and we post them on our social media, but we haven’t had a lot of success with that,” she said. “And then we do ask for a three dollar donation, and NVEnergy is matching every donation, dollar for dollar—and it’s just to support the program itself.”

Christmas tree recycling programs

When: Dec. 26-Jan. 7, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
How: Drop Christmas trees at one of the following locations
Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road
Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, 1595 N. Sierra St.
Shadow Mountain Sports Complex, 3300 Sparks Blvd., Sparks
Truckee Meadows Fire Station 17 500 Rockwell Blvd., Spanish Springs
Truckee Meadows Fire Station 223, 130 Nectar St.
Truckee Meadows Fire Station 16, 1240 Eastlake Blvd., New Washoe City

Incline Village
When: Dec. 21-Jan. 28 (and curbside Jan. 8-12)
How: Get rid of your Christmas tree in one of these two ways
Dec. 21-Jan. 28, drop it off at Preston Field, 700 Tahoe Blvd, Incline Village
Jan. 7-11, cut it into pieces—three-feet max in length—and leave it curbside for pickup on your regular trash day.

When: Dec. 26-Jan. 19 (and curbside Jan. 15-19)
How: Get rid of your Christmas tree in one of these two ways
Dec. 26-Jan. 19, find a Christmas tree dumpster at one of these places:
High School Soccer Fields, 11725 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, California
Tahoe Donner Clubhouse, 11509 Northwoods Blvd., Truckee, California
Glenshire Clubhouse, 15726 Glenshire Drive, Truckee, California
Jan. 15-19, cut it into pieces—three-feet max in length—and leave it curbside for pickup on your regular trash day.

Get creative

You’ve got a fireplace or a fire pit? The needles on Christmas trees dry out really quickly and can be used as kindling. You can chop the trunk into logs, but be aware that it may take as long as a few months before it’s dry enough to burn.

Have a chipper party. You can rent a wood chipper from any number of places in the valley and invite your entire posse for a wood chipping party. Don’t get any ideas from Fargo, please—but do distribute wood chips amongst yourselves to use as mulch.

Use a bandsaw or hacksaw to cut your Christmas tree trunk into coasters and trivets. The sap may be messy after you’ve cut the trunk into discs. Once you do, be sure to sand down the surfaces. You can stain them before you seal them—but be sure to use a sealer to stop sap leakage.