While the holiday season is a fun, joyous time for many, the cleanup afterwards typically isn’t. For people who get in the spirit by decorating their home with a Christmas tree, that includes eventually taking the tree down. People with artificial trees can just box up their festive fir, but others with real trees have to figure out the best way to dispose of them.
Google search trends data indicates that many people research their tree disposal options in the days immediately after Christmas.
Are Christmas trees recyclable?
- The National Christmas Tree Association
- Wake County, North Carolina
- City of St. Louis, Missouri
- Miami-Dade County, Florida
- Waste Management, a trash collection company often contracted by cities and counties
- The Home Depot
Yes, Christmas trees are recyclable, but your options for recycling them differ based on where you live.
WHAT WE FOUND
Experts recommend you recycle your live Christmas tree if at all possible. Many local municipalities provide options to recycle live Christmas trees immediately after Christmas, often with specified drop-off locations or by pick-up on trash collection days.
“After the holidays, don’t throw your real Christmas tree in the trash,” the National Christmas Tree Association says. “Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes.”
The National Christmas Tree Association lists five main ways you can recycle your tree: curbside pick-up, taking your tree to a drop-off recycling center, pick-up by community recycling and mulching programs, nonprofit pick-up and fitting your tree into a yard waste container.
Municipalities differ in how they handle recycling Christmas trees. In St. Louis, residents can leave bare trees at one of three city parks for a couple of weeks after Christmas. In Wake County, North Carolina, residents can drop off their trees at a park or convenience center for nearly a month after Christmas. Residents of Miami-Dade County in Florida can choose to drop off their trees, or they can leave their trees by the curb beginning Jan. 11, 2023. Miami-Dade County residents can then pick up free mulch after the county begins its recycling program.
Although St. Louis, Wake County and Miami-Dade County all offer these services for free, Waste Management, a trash collection company often contracted by cities and counties, notes that in some communities, there may be a one-time charge for Christmas tree pickup.
Additionally, the National Christmas Tree Association recommends a few options for self-recycling. You can remove the branches and chip those branches to use as mulch for a garden. Another way you can keep your tree useful long past the holidays is by removing its decorations, placing it in your backyard or garden and sticking foods like fresh orange slices on it to turn it into a bird feeder.
The Home Depot says that if you plan on recycling your tree, you should avoid materials like flocking spray when decorating your tree. The chemicals in most of these sprays will make a tree unrecyclable. Additionally, before recycling your tree, you should remove all Christmas ornaments, tinsel and garland from the tree.
Home Depot also warns that most pick-up programs have size limits on the trees, so you may have to cut your tree down if it’s particularly large.
If you can’t recycle your live tree for whatever reason, throwing it out, while not ideal, is your next best way of disposing of it. The National Christmas Tree Association and Home Depot say it’s important you never get rid of your tree by burning it indoors.
“Do not burn your tree in the fireplace or a wood stove,” Home Depot says. “The resulting creosote buildup can possibly ignite and cause a house fire.”