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San Francisco’s 2-week Christmas tree collection period begins Jan. 2

A used Christmas tree is seen by rubbish and recycling bins
Recology composts every Christmas tree it collects in San Francisco—but there can't be anything left on it. | Source: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

In less than a week, the cookies will be stale, the presents will have been unwrapped and that Christmas tree will have lost its evergreen aroma. After the holidays inevitably end, it’s time to move forward with a pine needle-free home. 

But as most people know, they’re hard to throw out. All those noble fir corpses lining the streets can look pretty miserable—a Kris Kringle Treemageddon—so it can be tempting to think of alternatives to traditional disposal.  

“Most San Franciscans know what to do with their tree at this point,” said Nadya Chang, a customer-service representative at Bay Area waste-management company Recology. “We included a printed flyer in their bills, and we’ve been doing it the same way for years.” 

The what-to-do is pretty simple: You put your tree out on your regular garbage collection day beside your bins during the first two weeks of January—in 2024, the Christmas tree collection window runs from Jan. 2 to Jan. 16. 

Just as important, though, is what not to do.

A woman and her son look at a Christmas tree together.
Three-year-old Ishaan Verma plays with a toy saw while Christmas tree shopping with his mom, Hasitha Verma, at Clancy’s Christmas Trees in the Sunset District. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Don’t Leave Anything on Your Tree 

Recology composts 100% of the trees it collects, so it’s important not to leave anything on the tree—no stray tinsel or icicles, no hidden ornament hooks. Recology won’t accept Christmas trees that have been flocked, because the spray contains chemicals. So if you have a tree covered in fake snow, it goes in the black bin. 

Don’t Feed It to the Bison 

You’d be forgiven for wanting to feed your Douglas fir to the bison in Golden Gate Park, since the loping animals traditionally receive Christmas trees as an annual treat. But you can’t go tossing your tree trunk into the paddock, since the bison are given exclusively unsold trees donated from local lots, to ensure there are no chemical treatments on them. 

A sign advertising Christmas trees hangs in a tree lot.
Laura Wood and Daniel Dores mull over the selection at Clancy’s Christmas Trees. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Don’t Feed It to the Goats 

Goats love to eat Christmas trees. They love to eat anything, really, and that’s why they’ve been used as a natural (and adorable) form of landscape maintenance.

The last working goat herd in San Francisco resides in the Bayview and can be arranged for home visits. And while City Grazing used to welcome your old Christmas trees as goat kibble, they no longer accept them because eating all those leftovers gave the goats indigestion. 

Don’t Toss It on the Sidewalk Whenever You Want

Dried-out Christmas trees can be a fire and tripping hazard and can create an unsightly scene on the street, so don’t go throwing your tree on the sidewalk just anytime.

Leave it by your bins the night before your collection day. And if you miss the two-week Christmas tree collection period, don’t worry—just put your tree out on your next collection day. 

“Recology is committed to servicing customers’ Christmas trees as long as is necessary,” Chang said. 

Julie Zigoris can be reached at