From the Mantle to the Chipper: Thoughts on the Last Days of Christmas Trees

Scroll down to see where these guys wind up.trees-tile

As long as I’ve lived in the city, I’ve had a fascination with curbside trash, not in garbage bins, but things from people’s homes that have been cast to the street.  Furniture, sporting goods, kitchenware, mattresses (often with signs to clarify their bedbug status), boxy TV’s that have been replaced by flat screens.  Sad objects out of their element, waiting to be collected, re purposed, burned, or hopefully given a new home.  At times I find it humorous, at others depressing, but always interesting, like little clues about our society, our consumption habits, tastes, neighborhoods, and individual households.

At this time of year, the curbside Christmas tree is a ubiquitous city sight, everywhere at the moment, and trickling off for a few months (some of the above photos were shot as late as April). They are particularly interesting because they are living things, plants, that provide immense joy to millions of families for a very brief time and then are laid on the street like, well, garbage.  Grown and purchased with full knowledge of their short usable life.

A few years back, I shot a bunch of these curbside trees, more so in the trickling off weeks and months, and never really did anything with any of the photos unitl now, but the exercise made me wonder about the next step for the trees. Where do they all meet again for their final journey to the wood chipper, compost pile, or land fill?  In January of 2012 I contacted Recology, SF’s garbage collection agency, and was given a short tour of what was essentially a giant pile of trees in one of the back lots of the dump. These piles of trees are chipped and converted into boiler fuel for the generators at Recology’s recycling center. I shot some photos and used one as a “Happy New Year” postcard, which I though was pretty clever and maybe a little dark.  Anyway, they too have been sitting around on my hard drive doing nothing and I figured some of us may be interested in knowing where our trees disappear to after we set them to the curb.

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About askreamer

Photographer
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