Can You Recycle Christmas Trees?

Can You Recycle Christmas Trees?

With Christmas over, and the new year setting in, you may have a Christmas tree in your living room. Not sure what to do with it? You’re not alone. Many people don’t know how to recycle Christmas trees. Thing is, it all depends on where you live, and what kind of Christmas tree it is – real or artificial. Technically, both are recyclable in a sense. Real trees can be recycled into mulch and artificial trees can be donated and reused. But you have to know how to do this properly first, or your tree could end up in a landfill. Here’s how to recycle Christmas trees.

Can You Recycle Christmas Trees?

Can You Recycle Christmas Trees?

Real Christmas tree recycling

This section addresses frequently asked questions about recycling a real Christmas tree. Be mindful that a real tree is completely compostable and biodegradable. For this reason, you never want it to end up in a landfill – trees sent to landfill will emit greenhouse gases, like methane, since they cannot break down properly. This only furthers climate change.

How do you dispose of a large Christmas tree?

To properly dispose of a large Christmas tree, make sure to remove all the water out of the tree stand with a turkey baster. This will ensure it creates less mess. Then, flip the tree (stand and all) sideways onto an old bed sheet you don’t mind getting dirty. Once the tree is on the floor, remove the stand and use the sheet to help you carry it outside. Just make sure to remove the sheet afterwards when you leave it curbside. The sheet will help make cleanup a little easier.

Just take note: Very large trees over 7 feet may need to be cut down to a specific size. Check within your local guidelines to see what they say.

How to dispose of Christmas trees nyc?

There are many ways to ensure your tree gets recycled in NYC. If you don’t live in NYC, you may still have access to similar options. Be sure to look into your local .gov or sanitation department for more details.

In New York, DSNY will collect clean Christmas trees and wreaths from Friday, January 6 to January 14, weather permitting. Before your trees can be collected, be sure to remove all lights, ornaments, and tinsel. Tree stands and metal frames/wires should also be removed from wreaths. 

Make sure not to wrap them in any plastic. Do not place them inside a plastic bag, but instead, leave them at the curb between the designated dates (January 6-14).  

In New York, real trees collected during this time period will be turned into mulch and used around the city. You can also take your tree to Mulch Fest where your tree will be chipped for free and you will receive your very own bag of mulch to use in your backyard or to make a winter bed for a street tree.  

Not a New Yorker? Don’t worry. You have options too.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, here’s how to make sure your tree gets recycled:
  • Curbside pick-up for recycling: Many providers will collect trees during regular pickup schedules on the two weeks following Christmas. There are often requirements for size, removing ornaments, flocking, etc.
  • Take your tree to a drop-off recycling center: Most counties have free drop-off locations. Usually, you may take up to two trees to a drop-off location at no charge.
  • Tree recycling/mulching programs: Tree recycling and mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation. Check with your local department of public works for information. They chip and shred the trees, then make the mulch available for use in your garden. Your hauler will notify you of pick-up dates in your area. Be sure to check with your local hauler.
  • Nonprofit pickup: Call for an appointment to have a nonprofit organization in your area pickup your tree. Some Boy Scout troops offer a pickup service for a small donation (often $5).
  • Yard waste: Cut the tree to fit loosely into your yard waste container.

Where can I recycle Christmas trees in NYC?

You can take your Christmas trees to Mulchfest in NYC. They setup this event in all 5 boroughs during park hours between December 26 and January 8. Just haul your tree to a Mulchfest location — they’ll chip your tree into wood chips that they’ll use to nourish trees and make NYC even greener. Or, you may even be able to take a bag home with you to use in your own garden!

Can I put my Christmas tree by the curb?

Yes you can put Christmas trees by the curb in many states for curb-side pickup recycling. Before you do this, be sure to remove all Christmas ornaments, lights, tinsel and garland from the tree. That also includes tree stands. It should be completely bare – and not in a plastic bag either.

Artificial Christmas tree recycling

For those who choose to keep an artifical Christmas tree, this is for you. Truth is, artificial trees aren’t as easy to recycle as real ones. So if you plan on getting an artificial tree, make sure you use it for several years!

What can I do with an old artificial Christmas tree?

You can take an old artificial Christmas tree to a thrift store, nursing home or a charity organization to see if they’d like to have it. As long as it’s still in one piece, and there’s no additional décor on it that’s not permanently attached, they’ll be receptive to accepting it.

My mom once donated an artificial tree to the hospital she works in too – so check with your workplace to see if they’d accept it as well.

What is the average lifespan of an artificial Christmas tree?

The average lifespan of an artificial Christmas tree is about six years. Or, at least that’s how long most people keep them before replacing them. In truth, a reusable tree can be reused for at least 20 years if kept in good condition. Even better if you thrifted the artificial tree and gave it a second life!

Can I put an artificial Christmas tree in the recycling bin?

No, you cannot put your artificial Christmas tree in the recycling bin. That’s because it’s made up of mixed materials which makes it harder to recycle curbside. It has a bunch of plastic and wiring and may even contain lighting fixtures.

So, which do you prefer? Real or artificial trees? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for more Christmas tips? Check out my ultimate guide to a zero waste Christmas.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

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