Time to dispose of the Christmas tree

A Tule Elk scratches its back with a Christmas tree at the Oakland Zoo. Photo by Shana Jensen, Oakland Zoo.

A Tule Elk scratches its back with a Christmas tree at the Oakland Zoo. Photo by Shana Jensen, Oakland Zoo.

Torako the tiger with a pine tree at the zoo. Photo by Erica Calcagno, Oakland Zoo.

With Christmas over, tree lot owners and tree buyers are now looking for ways to dump the conifers that were so recently covered in blinking lights and shiny ornaments, or the ones that got passed over by buyers time and again and never reached the decoration stage.

While homeowners and apartment renters have several different options from the Alameda County Waste Management about how to dispose of their trees, two tree lots in Oakland—Brent’s Christmas Trees and Simonis Quality Christmas Trees—send what’s left of their supply to the Oakland Zoo.

Turns out, elephants like to eat the Christmas trees. Elk use them to scratch their backs. Other animals like to perch, nest and hide in the trees.

“The giraffes and the elephants just have a ball with them,” said Brent Hennefer, the owner of Brent’s Christmas Trees, which was on Lake Park Avenue in the Grand Lake District until it shut down for the season the day after Christmas.

Gina Kinzley, a senior elephant keeper at the zoo, said small animals tend to go for the smaller Scotch pine trees, donated by Brent’s, while the elephants go for the larger noble firs, donated by Simonis.

“I’m not sure why this is their choice,” Kinzley wrote in an e-mail about the elephants, “but I assume they are more flavorful.”

The Oakland Zoo does not allow the general public to drop off their trees for the animals—they only take the leftover trees donated by the lot owners. But the Alameda County Waste Management will pick up a tree from your doorstep, unless you live in apartment building.

In Oakland, for a single family home or a building with 2-4 units, residents have until January 16 to set their Christmas trees out on the curb to be picked up on their regularly scheduled day of service. Trees have to be shorter than 6 feet; trees taller than that have to be cut into pieces. The waste management authority will also not pick up trees with snow flocking, tinsel, ornaments, nails, nets, bags or tree stands still attached. Trees can also be placed in green waste recycling containers if they’re cut up and the lid closes. Plastic trees can also be placed on the curb for pickup.

An elephant munches on a Christmas tree. Photo by Gina Kinzley, Oakland Zoo.

People who live in apartment buildings with five or more units can take their trees to the Davis Street Transfer Station/Recycling Park in San Leandro (2615 Davis St.) and drop them off for free. Owners of apartment complexes may also order temporary dumpsters from the Alameda County Waste Management for a fee, or schedule a small bulk pickup, also for a fee.

Alameda County Waste Management does not pick up trees from commercial units; so if you run a business and want to get rid of the office tree, you’ll have to order a dumpster.

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