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Holiday Recycling

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University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardeners advocate foothill-friendly, “smart” gardening choices. Two of our “principles” are: Feed the Soil and Recycle. How can you follow those principles in disposing of your used holiday materials? Read on to learn some ways to recycle your real, cut Christmas tree and your holiday packaging Styrofoam.

Tree Recycling
Real Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. You may wish to chip your Christmas tree and use it at home as mulch or compost. Or, you may want to help reduce the waste stream by recycling your Christmas trees. Recycled trees have many beneficial uses. Christmas trees can be commercially chipped, shredded and used as mulch for water conservation and weed control, erosion and/or dust control on hiking trails and bridle paths, additives in composting operations and alternative fuel in co-generation or biomass plants.

Tuolumne County’s Solid Waste Division points out that Christmas trees become a fire hazard when kept (intact) too long, burning Christmas trees in the fireplace is extremely dangerous, and burning trees in the open creates air pollution.

The Big Oak Flat/Groveland Transfer Station and the Cal Sierra/Waste Management Earth Resource Facility (ERF) are accepting Christmas trees on a limited basis for FREE under certain conditions. Christmas trees should NOT be mixed with other trash for disposal or recycling. They note to remove all decorations, tinsel, metal tree stands and nails. Also, some trees may have a metal supporting rod in the trunk that must be removed. Christmas wrapping paper or trash are not accepted for free.


Big Oak Flat/Groveland Transfer Station at the end of Merrell Road (10700 Merrell Rd) will accept clean cut and bundled trees AT NO CHARGE. The minimum gate fee of $14.70 will be charged for flocked trees of any kind. Drop off during regular business hours, 8:00 am to 3:45 pm, Wednesday and Saturday only, through the month of January.

Cal Sierra/Waste Management Earth Resource Facility (ERF) on Camage Avenue, off of Tuolumne Road near Standard, will accept clean, whole trees AT NO CHARGE during regular business hours, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, closed 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Tuesday thru Saturday, through the month of January. NO FLOCKED TREES. All other green waste will be at the regular charge.

In Calaveras, all facilities will be closed New Year’s Day. Free curbside collection of trees began today and will go thru January 14th. Remove all decorations, tinsel, and tree stands, leave out on the curb. Wrapping paper and Christmas cards can be put in with mixed recyclables but no foil, tissue or musical cards.

You can also bring your Christmas Tree to the various dumps, full information here.

Styrofoam Recycling
In mid-January, Master Gardeners will once again be collecting your clean, dry #6 polystyrene foam. Please remove all labels and tape; no packing peanuts or other types of foam, please. Bring your Styrofoam to Microtronics Way (off of Standard Road or Camage Avenue, in East Sonora) on Saturday, January 12, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Sunday, January 13, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Master Gardeners will unload your car for you.

Master Gardeners collaborate with Waste Management Inc. and Tuolumne County to repurpose Styrofoam. Cal Sierra Division of Waste Management provides free 20′ bins for collection, and then compresses and bales the Styrofoam. Tuolumne County’s e-waste hauler picks up the bales and delivers them to a manufacturing company in Lodi that turns the Styrofoam into new food containers.

Please support your community by recycling your Christmas tree and Styrofoam this holiday season.