AUSTIN, TX — The coronavirus pandemic created a higher demand for real Christmas trees this year as many sought solace or just a bit of genuine holiday cheer. Others found themselves at home more than ever, giving them ample time to tend to and water their arboreal decorative centerpieces.
What this means post-Christmas is that recycle centers have mulch to do. Fortunately, for those of us who opted for the real thing as it comes to trees, places to recycle trees — to be turned into beneficial, nutrient-rich mulch — abound in the Austin area.
Not to sound like an alarmist here, but preventing house fires is another reason to recycle your tree. The National Fire Protection Association ticks off some sobering facts related to fires fueled by dried-out holiday trees — oftentimes ignited by nearby candles. According to the association:
Between 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of two deaths, 14 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually.
Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half (45 percent) of home Christmas tree fires.
More than one-fifth (22 percent) of the Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
Fifteen percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
Roughly three-quarters of Christmas tree fires occurred in December or January.
More than two of every five (42 percent) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room.
For the more visual-minded, this video from the National Fire Protection Association shows just how quickly a tree can burst into flames:
Video via National Fire Protection Association.
The Following is a list of places to recycle your holiday trees and shrubs:
Texas Disposal Systems tree recycling
Beginning on Saturday, Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) began accepting unflocked Christmas trees, holly, pumpkins, and other living decorations for recycling free of charge this holiday season at various locations through the end of January — with the exception of Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, when recycling centers will be closed. The term "unflocked" means that the tree is free of artificial snow.
These living decorations are destined to be repurposed into mulch and compost to be later made available for purchase at Garden-Ville stores throughout Central Texas, officials wrote in an an advisory.
Trees and decorations must be free of flocking, lights, ornaments, metal and other non-living contaminants. A $45 contamination fee will be assessed for trees and decorations that have not been cleaned. When bringing loads for drop off, residents are asked to ensure materials are tied and secured, per Texas law. For more information, visit the Texas Disposal Systems website.
Those in Williamson County seeking to have their trees recycled by Texas Disposal Systems will have to travel to the county seat for mulching. Texas Disposal Systems will be at Garden-Ville from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are closed Sunday. The site is located at 250 W.L. Walden Dr., and the telephone number is (512) 930-1715.
Other Texas Disposal Systems recycling sites will be in operation, from as near as Bee Cave and Creedmor to as far as San Antonio and Victoria:
TDS Landfill Creedmoor from Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to sunset / Sunday closed, 3016 FM 1327 Creedmoor, TX 78610. Phone (512) 421.1362.
TDS & Garden-Ville Bee Cave from Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. / Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. / Sunday closed, 4001 RR 620 S. Bee Cave, TX 78738. Phone: (512) 263-5265.
Garden-Ville Evans Road, San Antonio, Texas, Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. / Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. / Sunday closed, 7561 E. Evans Rd., San Antonio, Texas, 78266. Phone: (210) 651-6115.
Garden-Ville SARA San Antonio, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. / Saturday closed / Sunday closed, 1280 FM 1516 #2, Converse, Texas, 78109. Phone: (210) 483-1951.
Garden-Ville Victoria Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m./ Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. / Sunday closed, 18125 FM 1686, Victoria, Texas, 77905. Phone: (361) 897-1500.
Note: Christmas Tree Collection Sites: All sites who are accepting trees will be open Dec. 26 to Jan., except Jan. 1 when they will be closed. Evans Road also will be closed Dec. 31. SARA, Bee Cave and Victoria locations will have limited hours on Dec. 31. Aside from these exceptions, normal hours apply.
Starting Dec. 26, City of Austin curbside customers can recycle their Hanukkah bushes, Christmas and holiday trees by leaving them at the curb on their regular collection day. All other residents can drop trees off at Zilker Park. Starting December 26, City of Austin curbside customers can recycle their trees at the curb. Again: Please remove all decorations and stands from trees. Trees with flocking (artificial snow) are not accepted. Set out your tree by 6:30 a.m. on your composting or yard trimmings collection day. Trees more than six feet should be cut in half. Do not place tree in a plastic bag.
All residents can do a contactless drop off of their trees for recycling at Zilker Park, even if they are not a City of Austin customer. Trees with flocking. Yet again, city officials remind: Please remove all decorations and stands prior to arrival. Also: Remember to bring your mask or face covering for drop off. Drop off is between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the following dates:
Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021.
Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021.
Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.
Austin is giving residents a little holiday bonus by offering free mulch after crews grind up the trees. Those trees collected at Zilker Park will be turned into mulch that will be available for free on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 14, 2021, at 9 a.m. (date and time subject to change due to weather). Residents are asked to wear protective face coverings and bring their own tools and storage containers for loading and transporting the mulch.
Video provided by the City of Austin.
Cedar Park-Leander recycling
Residents of Cedar Park or Leander can have your tree picked up by members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 233 during their annual fundraiser of picking up Christmas Trees and taking them for recycling, according to a Facebook post. The service includes coming to residents' homes to retrieve the trees to be turned into mulch for use at city parks. This year's collection day is Jan. 9, 2021. Visit the BSA Troop 233 website, follow the links for details and fill out a pick-up request form.
Starting Dec. 26, Williamson County residents also can recycle their Christmas trees free of charge at the Williamson County Landfill, 600 Landfill Rd., in Hutto, Texas. The service runs until Jan. 19 during the landfill's normal hours of operation on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. The landfill is closed on Sundays, and will close on New Year's Day. It goes without saying, but residents should remove all lights and ornaments from their trees before dropping them off at the landfill. For more information, call (512) 759-8881.
Trees will be given new life as beneficial mulch at the Recycle Center, 15500 Sun Light Near Way. The drop-off times are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Friday and Saturday. Residents are asked to remove all lights and decorations from their trees before dropping them off.
Trees dropped off for recycling are mulched, and residents are welcome to pick up mulch from the Pflugerville Recycle Center while supplies last. Tree recycling is provided free for residents of the City of Pflugerville with a maximum amount given away of up to 2 cubic yards. Drop off for non-residents is $15 for up to 2 cubic yards. For more information on recycling, visit the city's Pflugerville News portal.
City officials noted that the only location for recycling a tree is the Recycle Center. Trees are not accepted at Wells Point Park. Christmas trees left curbside on residents trash day should be cut in half to no greater than 4 feet in length to be included with trash pickup. Residents are urged to leave their trees out on the curb by 7 a.m.