How to Properly Recycle Your Christmas Tree
If this was your first year using a real tree for the holidays, you might be wondering how to properly dispose of it.
Most people will dispose of their trees shortly after the holidays - offering a wider variety of options. If you choose to leave your tree after the holidays, water it sufficiently so it does not dry out. Remember – a dry tree is a dangerous tree. Once your tree begins to dry out and pines begin to fall off, it is time to be removed from your home:
Prepare the Tree for Disposal
Unless otherwise noted, all stands, lights, decorations, and tinsel must be removed prior to disposal. Artificial Christmas trees cannot be recycled. They must go out with the garbage.
- Remove all lights, ornaments, tinsel and other NON-Organic decorative materials from the tree, including the tree stand.
- Often times there is a limit on the height a tree must be to be disposed of properly, usually 4 ft. lengths. Some locales require you to cut the tree into small enough pieces to fit inside your green yard waste container. Check your local garbage/waste management facilities requirements before setting the tree out for disposal.
Disposing the Tree
- Curbside Pickup for Recycling – Most areas will collect trees during their regular pickup schedules up to a month after Christmas. Ensure it is prepared properly (decorative materials removed/cutting it down) then place it on the curb for collection.
- Drop it off at a Recycling Center – Most counties have free drop off locations throughout the county where you can typically dispose of up to two trees at no charge. Some department stores such as Home Depot and Lowes also provide a drop off for your tree. If not, Earth911 offers a useful search tool to locate Christmas Tree recycling options near you!
- Have Your Tree Picked Up by a Non-Profit Organization – Some local boy scout troops offer a pickup service for a small donation, such as $5. Call around and keep an eye out for local listings providing this service.
- Yard Waste Pickup – Cut the tree to fit loosely into your yard waste container; it can then be picked up according to your regularly scheduled service day.
- Donate Your Tree to the Community for Nature Paths or Erosion Barriers – Some communities use shredded trees to maintain safe nature paths within local/state parks. Others use the trees along lake and river shorelines for shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management. Look into organizations in your community who can recycle your tree for a good cause!
- Make Mulch – You can make a wonderful, natural, biodegradable mulch yourself by removing the branches from the tree and using a chipper to break them down.
- Convert it into a Fish Feeder – Do you or a neighbor of yours have a small pond? Sunken Christmas trees create a perfect refuge, breeding and feeding area for fish.
- Transform it into a Bird Feeder – Simply place your tree in the backyard or garden and watch as bird flock to it! Birds will make great use of your tree for nesting. To attract even more feathery friends, place string popcorn or orange slices around the tree.
- Replant it – If you opted for a rooted tree, feel free to replant it and enjoy it for years to come!
- Get Creative – Use your tree to create festive DIY crafts! You can create stunning natural coasters by cutting slabs from the trunk, sanding them down and applying a coat of polyurethane to keep surfaces sap-free!
- Use it in Your Outdoor Fire Pit – Your Christmas tree should never be used in an indoor fireplace or wood stove as the pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils that can contribute to a creosote buildup and risk of a chimney fire. However, they are great to use for an outdoor bonfire as they’re quick to ignite, so use them to get your fire started.
Whichever method you decide to recycle your tree with this year, make sure you do so before your tree becomes very dry. Monitor your tree for freshness after Christmas and remove it from your home as soon as it begins to show signs of drying out, such as pines falling from the branches. A dry tree is a serious fire hazard.