A pile of Christmas trees awaits mulching at the Bitters Brush Recycling Center. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

That Christmas tree shedding pine needles in the living room can be reborn as mulch, thanks to a free service from the City of San Antonio this weekend and next.

San Antonians can bring their Christmas trees to nine drop-off locations around the city this Saturday and Sunday and Jan. 11 and 12. The City’s Solid Waste Management Department turns those firs and spruces into mulch, a service it has offered since 2010.

Last year, the department collected 1,792 Christmas trees, said Marcus Lee, the department’s marketing manager. 

“We don’t want it to go to the landfill,” Lee said. “If it can be repurposed at all, we don’t want it on the curb in a tree bag because … a priority for the department and City is to reduce the tonnage that goes to the landfill.”

Technically, the department only takes trees from solid waste customers but will accept Christmas trees from anyone.

“If we don’t take it and you’re an apartment dweller and you put it in your apartment’s big dumpster, that goes to the landfill anyway,” Lee said. “If we can prevent that, that’s a priority.”

All decorations must be removed from trees prior to disposal. Any trees taller than 6 feet must be cut in half. No bagged trees will be accepted. The solid waste department also won’t take spruce or pine garlands and wreaths because they are typically wired together, Lee said.

Very small trees that fit completely in the green organics bin with the lid closed may be disposed of curbside, Lee added. 

“No ornaments, no lights, and certainly no artificial trees,” Lee said. “If you are going to throw away holiday plants like poinsettias that finally die, we do accept those in the green cart but please take them out of the plastic container.”

On Saturday and Sunday and next Saturday, Jan. 11, and Sunday, Jan. 12, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., San Antonians can go to the following locations to drop off Christmas trees:

  • Rusty Lyons Sports Center – 6300 McCullough Ave., 78212
  • Bitters Brush –  1800 Wurzbach Parkway, 78216
  • Southeast District Center – 1318 SE Loop 410, 78220
  • Southside Drop-Off Center  – 5450 Castroville Rd., 78227
  • Northeast District Center – 10303 Tool Yard Dr., 78233
  • Northwest District Center – 6939 W Loop 1604 North, 78254
  • Nelson Gardens – 8963 Nelson Rd., 78252
  • Eisenhower Park – 19399 NW Military Hwy., 78257
  • Stone Oak Park – 20395 Stone Oak Parkway, 78258

The Bitters Brush and Nelson Gardens locations also will accept Christmas trees every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the entire month of January.

Mulch made from Christmas trees is available free of charge to solid waste customers, Lee said. It can be picked up from the Bitters Brush and Nelson Gardens locations every day. 

“It’s got a variety of uses, but moisture is what it does best,” Lee said. “If you’re trying to avoid overwatering, then mulching flower beds and mulching other areas … will really help the moisture stay on your bed. As it breaks down and decomposes, it has nutrient value as well.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.