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Undeck the halls

Residents asked to recycle, reuse holiday decor

It didn't take Ellen Wilson long to find the right Christmas tree this year. The Palo Alto resident and her family spotted it in about 20 minutes at a local tree lot hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Menlo Park in Palo Alto. They look forward to the tradition every year.

"I love the smell," Ellen said. "The best thing is when you open the door and smell the tree."

Her husband, Steve, said the search for the Christmas tree is a fun family thing they do together. Their children — Alastair, 11, and Sofia, 13 — also enjoy the hunt.

Like many residents, the Wilsons will keep their tree on display until New Year's Day. Then what? Now that Christmas is here, the next thing for residents to consider is what to do with their trees and holiday decor.

Recycle, reuse

GreenWaste of Palo Alto will provide curbside tree pick up for the next four weeks. Residents are asked to have their trees on the curb by 6 a.m., said Katelyn Lewis, environmental outreach manager for GreenWaste. Trees should be placed next to the green compost cart.

There will be no standard curbside pickup on Dec. 25 because of the holiday, but regular service schedules and tree collection will start next week on Dec. 28, she said. There is no service on Sundays. If a resident's regular collection day falls on the holiday, service will resume the next day. For example, if you take down the tree on Jan. 1, it can be picked up Jan. 2.

Lewis said trees must be undecorated and cut into 4-foot lengths with stands removed. Wreaths will also be accepted and also must be undecorated. If wreaths are small enough, they can be placed inside the green compost carts, she said.

When asked about how many trees she suspects will be picked up this year, she said it's hard to say but they serve 18,000 single-family customers in addition to apartment communities and others.

Collected trees will be taken to the Zero Waste Energy Development Company (ZWED) in north San Jose, where they will be anaerobically digested to create renewable energy and compost.

Steve said he plans to take part in the curbside tree collection service offered by GreenWaste.

Another option when it comes to disposing of the tree is to use it for backyard compost. Because the tree is biodegradable it works nicely for making mulch, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Decorations like ornaments and holiday lights will also be taken but must be placed in the appropriate bins, Lewis said. Lights should be bundled and placed in the blue recycle bin. The new LED lights will not be accepted, she said. While residents are encouraged to donate unwanted ornaments, those that are made of the same material like plastic and metal can be recycled. Standard glass ball ornaments cannot.

What about wrapping paper and gift boxes? Residents are asked to consider repurposing these items.

"We're all for people reusing," Lewis said. "If they can reuse their wrapping paper, we encourage them to reuse as much as they can."

Lewis said this is a busy time of year but the company is prepared for the increase in material. If residents require extra service/pickup, they can call 650-493-4894 or email pacustomerservice@greenwaste.com. Residents are also encouraged to call if they are unsure of what will be picked up and if they have questions about proper sorting, she said.

"At this time of year, we see a lot of extra materials," she said. "We ask that residents bundle their cardboard and containerize their recyclables."

Food waste is also heightened during the holidays, and residents are asked to eat those leftovers and/or compost those scraps. In July, the city through Zero Waste Palo Alto started a food scraps collection program that now allows residents to place food scraps in their green compost bins, Lewis said.

Keep it fresh

Even though Christmas has arrived, there's still plenty of time to enjoy your tree. How do you keep it fresh in the final days? According to Tom Boeddiker, water is key for freshness. Boeddiker is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Menlo Park and has volunteered at the Palo Alto tree lot for many years. His father was a Kiwanis Club member, so he said he grew up helping at the tree lot.

"We always remind people to keep the reservoir full," he said. "It's really about keeping moisture up in the tree."

Boeddiker said sales from the tree lot help provide about $35,000 in scholarships to Menlo Atherton High School students. He said he too will recycle his Christmas tree.


Freelance Writer TaLeiza Calloway-Appleton can be emailed at tjcalloway2@gmail.com.

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3 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm

It would be helpful if the city sent an experienced staffer on the collection trucks to cut the trees curbside if necessary, rather than requiring homeowners to do it themselves. Cutting with a power saw is a quick job for an experienced worker, but could be dangerous for someone who rarely does it, while cutting with a handsaw might be too difficult for some.

2 people like this
Posted by Sherry
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 23, 2015 at 5:11 pm

You can use a hand saw.

1 person likes this
Posted by Wrapping
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Dec 24, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Can non-foil wrapping paper be recycled with paper? Or compost?

2 people like this
Posted by misleading photo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2015 at 11:43 am

Your photo "shows" how to place your tree for pick up however, it shows a full tree. The article says you need to cut the tree into 4 ft. pieces. Many people will look at your photo and not read the article. Visual and actual do not match.

Like this comment
Posted by David Moore
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2015 at 11:38 am

Thanks for the helpful article Ms. Appleton. Merry Christmas!

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