Rockin’ around the Christmas tree

Christmas Tree Recycling

Locally grown Christmas trees are available throughout the city, including this lot on the corner of Plumb Lane and South Virginia Street.

Locally grown Christmas trees are available throughout the city, including this lot on the corner of Plumb Lane and South Virginia Street.


Learn more about KTMB’s programs at

The environmental impact of Christmas trees is a talking point for environmentalists during the holidays. Some argue that trees are a crop grown in farms, much like consumable produce, and can be treated as such. Others claim that too many tree farms can interfere with regional ecosystems. Fake trees have the benefit of reuse, but most households only end up reusing them for around seven years before they end up in the trash, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. And while many real trees end up in landfills because of poor post-holiday disposal options, communities around the country have developed recycling programs that prevent a buildup of the rotting perennials, including the volunteer-run Christmas tree recycling project of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.

Through the project, Christmas trees get additional use when they are recycled into wood chips used for other city beautification projects. This year marks 21 years of collecting and recycling used arbors, according to KTMB program director Deidre Kennelly. KTMB took over the program around 15 years ago.

“It’s very popular. We collect around 9-to-10,000 trees each year.”

The program is run by more than 300 volunteers, although Kennelly said that volunteers are always needed to accommodate the demand. Once the trees are collected, the City of Reno Urban Forestry Commission picks them up and processes them through an industrial chipper, creating piles of wood chips. The chips are distributed among city parks and are also used in soil erosion prevention projects for the Truckee River. Residents are welcome to the chips if they request them.

Besides the opportunity to reuse natural resources, Kennelly said that the program attracts a dedicated crew of volunteers who return each year to help, and that it’s become another type of holiday tradition for families and organizations.

“Every year volunteers have so much fun,” Kennelly said. “It’s a nice community event.”

There are several guidelines for tree drop-offs—trees need to be stripped of all decorations, and of course, no fake trees are allowed. Wreaths and other foliage décor are also not accepted, and only residential households can participate.

When residents arrive to drop off their trees, they are greeted by volunteers, who unload the trees and clean out the residents’ vehicles. The Urban Forestry Commission takes care of the rest.

There is a $3 minimum donation requested, which goes toward next year’s recycling program and other KTMB programs. The program begins on Dec. 26 and will run until Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Three drop off sites are available at Bartley Ranch, Shadow Mountain park, and Rancho San Rafael park.

Kennelly encourages the community to use the resource to prevent the amount of tree waste or illegal dumping that occur when people aren’t sure about where to dispose of their trees.

“Those chips become very valuable to the parks,” she said. “And it’s a nice way to wrap up the holidays.”