Here's what to do with those old Christmas trees

Zach Vance • Dec 27, 2018 at 11:09 PM

‘Twas three days after Christmas,
and all through the town
Pines, spruces and Frasers
were all coming down
Stacked neatly in rows,
no ornaments can one find,
As they wait to be gathered
for their sad farewell grind.

Christmas was just three days ago, but many Johnson City residents haven’t hesitated to get rid of those brittle Fraser firs.

On Thursday, hundreds of decoration-free Christmas trees were sprawled along the edge of the city’s designated drop-off site at Winged Deer Park’s boat ramp parking lot.

After removing her old Christmas tree from the top of her Subaru, Morgan Cunningham said it was the second year she’d opted to drop her tree off at the collection site, 250 Carroll Creek Road.

If residents do decide to drop their trees there, the city asks that trees be free of decorations and placed at the northwest side of the parking lot below the recycling drop-off station.

However, city residents can also just take their trees to the curb, where the city’s Solid Waste Services department will pick them up. That service will run through the third Saturday in January.

In previous years, city officials estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 trees are disposed of annually.

Once in the city’s possession, the trees will be taken to the municipality’s brush collection site at the Cash Hollow Convenience Center and chipped into three-inch pieces for mulch.

The city will sometimes sell those wood chips to Kingsport’s Domtar Corporation, which then burns the chips to power its boilers.

In 2016, Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said the city gets about $17 a ton for the wood chips and typically produces about 10,000 tons of chips annually. The money gained from this program is used to pay for the Solid Waste Division’s operations.

Although the program ended in 2015 due to the lake drawdown, some of Johnson City’s old Christmas trees from past years can be found at the bottom of Boone Lake.

For about six years, Johnson City partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and Keep Johnson City Beautiful to place old trees at the bottom of Boone Lake to create “habitat improvement structures,” where fish could hide and find food.