Christmas tree pickup, recycling tips for after the holidays

Now that the holidays are over, many people may be wondering what to do with their Christmas trees.

The National Christmas Tree Association says real trees should not be thrown in the trash because they are biodegradable and can easily be reused and recycled for mulch and other purposes. 

It’s important to note that the association said people should never burn their trees in a wood stove or fireplace. 

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However, the association said recycling options vary among communities but offered some general tips on how to get rid of the tree:

  • Curbside pick-up for recycling: Many neighborhoods will collect trees during regular pickup schedules on the two weeks following Christmas. However, requirements include size, removing ornaments, flocking, etc.
  • Take your tree to a drop-off recycling center: Most counties have free drop-off locations. Some will allow you to take up to two trees to a drop-off location at no charge.
  • Tree recycling/mulching programs: Some public works departments will chip and shred the trees, then make the mulch available for use in your garden.
  • Nonprofit pickup: Some nonprofit organizations may offer pick-ups. 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.

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Other recycling options for Christmas trees

  • Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management. Here’s an example of just such a project, called "Balsams for Brookies."
  • Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
  • Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
  • Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
  • Living, rooted trees: Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.

When removing your tree, the association said the best way to avoid a mess is to place a plastic tree bag underneath the stand when you set the tree up and hide it with a tree skirt. When the holidays are down, you can pull the bag up over the tree and remove the tree.