How to Recycle Christmas Trees

How to Recycle Christmas Trees

Once Jan. 1 rolls around, you’re probably looking to dispose of your Christmas tree. If you purchased a real tree, there are plenty of eco-friendly options for disposal.

Christmas Tree Recycling Preparation

  1. Remove any ornaments, lights, tinsel or other decorations from the tree, as well as the stand.
  2. Use Earth911’s Recycling Directory to find treecycling programs in your area.
  3. Put a tarp under the tree before you haul it to the curb or your car to prevent needles from shedding on the floor.
  4. If the tree is being picked up at the curb, you may need to cut large trees (taller than 5 feet) in half so they will fit in the truck.

Why Recycle Christmas Trees

  • Many cities will collect trees at the curb for the two weeks following Christmas, making treecycling a convenient option
  • Many cities chip or shred trees to produce mulch, which is often provided free of charge to citizens for their gardens
  • Christmas trees placed in landfills produce methane when they decompose or are incinerated

Frequent Treecycling Questions

In most cities, the answer is yes, but the collection window is limited. Usually a city will only collect trees on your regular collection day during the two weeks following Christmas. After that, you’ll likely need to schedule bulky waste collection or drive it to a yard waste collection facility. 
An even more popular option than curbside collection is drop-off events at city parks. You’ll need to tie the tree to the top of your car to transport it, but most cities offer at least one event after Christmas, if not a month of events like Georgia’s Bring One for the Chipper. These events may also offer you free mulch to take home. 
Yes. The tree should be returned to the same condition as when you bought it, minus any missing needles or discoloration. 
No. If you spray your tree to make it look covered in artificial snow (known as flocking), the tree will end up in a landfill.
No. Artificial trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a difficult-to-recycle plastic. These trees are designed for reuse over multiple years, but not end-of-life. You can try to donate artificial trees to a secondhand store, but they will likely only be accepted in November so they can be resold. 
While no states have specifically targeted Christmas trees, yard waste in general is banned from landfills in 24 states and the District of Columbia. 
Technically, yes. You can chop up a tree into firewood for the winter, or mulch it in your backyard. If you have a pond in the backyard, you can toss in the tree and provide shelter and nutrients to fish. Obviously, you’ll need to get permission before tossing your tree in a public body of water. 
Once trees are collected, there are several methods to treecycle them. The most common is via chipping or shredding the tree into mulch. Trees can also be tossed into bodies of water to provide nutrients and shelter to the fish.
If you have a truck and don’t mind getting dirty (and sappy), consider picking up trees from your neighbors for money. You can pile them in and transport to a local treecycling event. This is a popular fundraiser for Boy Scout troops.

Additional Reading