The Christmas holiday is over, and the city of Berkeley wants residents to know that they must cut up their trees to fit in their composting bins or transport the tree to the transfer station.

For the past few years, Berkeley has declined to pick up whole trees left by garbage cans. Instead, it has required they be cut up to fit inside the green plant debris cart.

Berkeley revamped its Christmas tree pick-up policy in 2019 to prevent damage to Berkeley’s plant debris collection trucks, Heidi Obermeit, the city’s recycling manager, told Berkeleyside at the time. Trees that are longer than four feet have damaged the side loaders of the trucks in previous years, sidelining them for weeks until they could be repaired.

The side-loading trucks “are not designed to handle big long trees and when they get shoved into the truck they can damage the plates,” she said.

“We find that trees left at the curb often aren’t cut to appropriate lengths and we also find plant stands still attached,” she said. “Asking community members to place their tree in their cart helps to ensure that all of the non-compostable items like ornaments, lights and tree stands are removed. Plastic and glass are problematic contaminants in the compost program.”

Christmas tree
When you’re ready to dispose your holiday tree, you can cut it up and place it in your compost bin for curbside pickup, or drop it off whole at the city’s transfer station — either way, remove all decorations first. Photo: Tracey Taylor Credit: Tracey Taylor

Berkeley cannot compost flocked, or “snow-covered” trees so they must be cut up and disposed of in the garbage cart.

Residents can also bring their whole trees to the transfer station at 1201 Second St. (off Gilman). All lights and decorations must be removed first. People can dispose of their flocked or plastic trees there, too, for a $29 fee.

The transfer station will take compostable trees for free through the end of January, according to the city of Berkeley website. The transfer station is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Residents who don’t have handsaws to cut up their trees can borrow them at the Tool Lending Library at the South Branch/Tarea Hall Pittman Branch at 1901 Russell St.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...