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Christmas Tree Disposal

How to Properly Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Disposal and Recycling Options for Stress-Free Holiday Cleanup

There's no place like home for the holidays. You've trimmed the tree and decked the halls to perfection, but what happens to your evergreen after the holiday celebrations are over?

Bring in a live tree for the holidays may be better for the environment than the alternative. Artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which isn't recyclable and won't break down in a landfill. 

If you opted for a real Christmas tree as the festive centerpiece for your decorations, dealing with disposal can be stressful. Trees are not accepted in dumpsters or general trash, so we rounded up some disposal and recycling options for you. 

Christmas Tree Disposal Options

Curbside Disposal

Many cities and towns have a special yard waste collection date for real Christmas trees after the holidays. Just ensure that you’ve taken off all ornaments, lights, tinsel and garland because these are not accepted as part of most programs. Check with your local Public Works Department for scheduled pickup dates in your area. 

Drop-off Locations

In areas that do not offer curbside pickup options, you can take your Christmas tree to a drop-off site that accepts yard waste. 

Pro Tip: Use Christmas tree bags for transportation from your house to the drop-off site. Simply place the bag under your tree skirt before the holidays to make it easy after the decorations are taken off. This will keep needles from falling onto your floor and littering the inside of your car or truck. 

How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Use a "Treecycling" Program

“In many small and large towns, the Solid Waste programs will set up Christmas tree recycling programs for the production of mulch by chipping the leftover trees. I’d speak with local County and City Solid Waste Departments or garden centers who would be interested in mulching the trees.”
Doug | National Christmas Tree Association

Some cities offer curbside mulching while others offer the service at specific locations. Do some research on your local government website to see what Christmas tree recycling options are available through the waste department in your area.

Plant It

This is only an option if you bought your tree with the roots intact. Replanting a tree can be tricky, but it’s possible with the right preparation. Heather Rhoades recommends that you don’t keep your tree inside for more than a week or two. This is because Christmas trees are cut down when they are dormant. If you leave them in your warm house for too long, they may leave dormancy and be unable to adapt to the cold outside. 

Chop It Up for Firewood

While you can also use your tree as kindling, don’t burn it in your fireplace. Firewood made from Christmas trees should only to be used outdoors because the sap from evergreen trees can stick to your chimney and catch fire. 

Pro Tip: Let your tree dry out for several months in a shed or other covered location before burning. This will reduce the amount of sap and make better kindling. 

Donate Your Tree to Help the Environment

There are conservation groups that use donated Christmas trees to help preserve natural habitats. For example, Christmas trees can be disposed of in man-made lakes to create temporary habitats for wildlife, such as Fyrne Lake in Tennessee. They can also be used to prevent erosion around a shoreline by creating a barrier

"Real Christmas trees are often utilized for wildlife habitats such as being sunk into ponds and lakes for fish cover. You can call the local or state wildlife commission where you live to get other ideas."
Doug | National Christmas Tree Association

Add Your Tree to the Compost Pile

The evergreen boughs from your Christmas tree are an ideal base layer for your compost pile. A base layer of branches allows airflow at the bottom of the pile as they decompose slowly over time. Give branches a trim if needed to fit in your pile or bin before stacking them a few inches high. Once this layer is in place, add kitchen scraps and compostable items as usual.

Enjoy a Green Holiday

Long story short: don't let Christmas tree disposal deter you from enjoying the holidays with a real evergreen. 

Have a creative way to repurpose your Christmas tree? Share it with us in the comments below!