How to dispose of artificial christmas tree


How to recycle, donate, or dispose of an artificial Christmas tree

Wondering what to do with your old artificial tree? Here are ideas for how to recycle, donate, repurpose, or trash it!

I am partial to fake Christmas trees. They are so easy (pre-lit is my love language) and have the perfect shape and look.

However, storing them year after year can be cumbersome. And, while these faux trees do last for several years, they do not last forever.

Whether your tree is damaged, dated, or you just don’t want to deal with it, disposing of a giant item like a Christmas tree can be confusing and overwhelming.

Today I am excited to round up for you several ideas for how to get rid of a plastic Christmas tree. I will always advocate for donating, repurposing, or recycling over trashing anything.

What to do with an old artificial Christmas tree

It’s great to use fake trees for many years. However, they do not last forever. If you are ready to part with your fake tree, you have a few options for getting rid of it.

I’ll rank the options in order from most to least eco-friendly.

  • Repurpose it
  • Donate it
  • Recycle it
  • Trash it

Let’s dive into each of these options, and see how you might use each way to get rid of your tree.

How to repurpose an artificial Christmas tree

If you are crafty, you can easily take your fake tree apart and turn it into new Christmas decor! This is an especially good option if your tree is damaged in certain sections or spots.

Use scissors or clippers that are strong enough to cut through the metal branches to disassemble the tree. If the limbs have wire in them, you can use that to make positionable crafts.

If the tree is pre-lit, be very careful about exposed electrical wires. You might want to use a little bit of electrical tape to cover any exposed wire that can’t be removed.

Here are some ideas for things to upcycle old trees into:

  • Wreath (cut into pieces and attach to any wreath form)
  • Teardrop shaped wall hanging
  • Garlands (connect pieces with floral wire)
  • Napkin rings (for pieces with built-in wiring)
  • Pull off + reuse Christmas lights if possible
  • Centerpiece
  • Turn top section into a tabletop tree

How to donate an artificial Christmas tree

There are many thrift stores and charities that accept donations of artificial trees. Other organizations, like nursing homes, might also be looking for functioning trees.

The most important thing when donating a fake Christmas tree is that it be in good shape and work perfectly. Donation centers don’t want to be bogged down with damaged goods and charity groups don’t want to display something that looks second rate.

Always call before trying to donate your tree to a thrift store. Many have limited floor space and only accept holiday decor during certain months of the year. You’re going to have a harder time donating it in January than in November!

If you want it gone quickly, consider listing it for free on Facebook Marketplace. You might have someone who wants to come pick it up!

How to recycle an artificial Christmas tree

Many cities have recycling programs for artificial Christmas trees. Unlike real Christmas trees that are often picked up by the yard waste trucks, artificial trees usually require a scheduled pickup or for you to drop them off at the recycling faciltiy.

Call your local recycling center to see if they have a Christmas tree recycling program! Since they are made from PVC, they can’t just be thrown in with the other recycling and require a special program.

Before taking your tree to be recycled, be sure that all of the ornaments, tinsel, and loose items have been removed.

How to dispose of an artificial Christmas tree

There are a few options for disposing of your artificial Christmas tree. Technically, they are considered household waste. So, if they have to go to the dump, you have a few ways to get it there.

Artificial trees can be placed in dumpsters. If you live in an apartment building that has a dumpster, you can stick it in there. If you know a business with a dumpster, ask permission before adding your tree.

You can also disassemble your tree and put it in your trash can. You might have to do one piece a week if it won’t all fit with your regular trash.

Finally, if your city does bulk item pickup, you might can place it on the curb and arrange for a pickup!

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Any questions about getting rid of your Christmas tree?

 

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Tips for Easy Christmas Tree Disposal

How to Throw Out, Repurpose or Recycle Real and Artificial Trees

When the winter holidays are over and it’s time to take down the holiday décor, some decorations can be packed away and saved for next year, but that may not be the case with your tree. Both real and artificial trees have limited shelf lives, but your Christmas tree will need to be tossed out before it covers your house in pine needles. If your artificial tree is past its prime, it may be time to let it go as well.

As you begin post-holiday cleanup, remember that live trees usually can’t be thrown into general trash bins and Christmas tree trash pickup services vary widely depending on where you live. Use our list of disposal options and recycling tips, as well as input from Doug Hundley of the National Christmas Tree Association, to easily get rid of your tree. 

So, How Do You Throw Away a Christmas Tree?

Although real and artificial Christmas trees may serve similar decorative purposes, the processes to get rid of them are very different.

Since live trees are biodegradable, they can be safely composted, mulched, or disposed of with other yard waste. On the other hand, artificial trees are commonly made with plastic that does not break down in landfills and can’t easily be recycled with single-stream waste like plastic bottles.  

What Type of Tree Are You Getting Rid Of?

Real Christmas Tree
Artificial Christmas Tree

How to Get Rid of a Real Christmas Tree

Several types of evergreens are commonly used as Christmas trees, including Balsam and Douglas Firs, White Spruce and various pines. If your tree was freshly cut when you bought it, it can last four to five weeks before rotting, giving you ample time to find a next step for your Christmas tree.

Leave Your Tree for Curbside Collection

If you’re planning to use your city’s regular garbage pickup services, check with your local service department directly to find out when your bulk pickup day is. Depending on regulations where you live, you may be able to put your tree directly on the curb for pickup. Christmas tree bags are a common option for making curbside disposal easier and can be found at most hardware and home goods stores.

Can I Throw My Christmas Tree in a Dumpster?

This also depends heavily on where you live and the regulations maintained by your local collections service. You’ll want to contact your city or township’s public services department to make sure live trees are accepted as standard waste.

If you manage a business with multiple trees to throw out, such as a hotel or office building, a roll off dumpster can be a helpful cleanup tool. However, some landfills restrict what can be disposed of as mixed solid waste, so make sure to ask if you’ll need a yard waste dumpster. 

If you live in an apartment building or complex with shared front load dumpsters, roll off bins or trash compactors for general waste collection, you’ll need to check with your landlord or front office to confirm what can and can’t be thrown in these containers.

Recycle or Reuse Your Live Tree

Consider Treecycling

Treecycling is a process that grinds old, unwanted live trees into other useful materials, mainly mulch. This can be done by specialty yard waste recyclers, but some municipal service departments offer this option as well. The City of Raleigh, for example, not only picks up Christmas trees at the curb, but also mulches them for use in local parks.

Pro Tip: Be aware that some Christmas trees are sprayed with pesticides, paints and other chemicals. Donation and recycling services may have restrictions on trees contaminated with these substances. The free farm or vendor you bought your tree from can offer more information on what chemicals your tree may contain.

 

“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 Hundley | National Christmas Tree Association

 

Replant Your Christmas Tree

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.

If your tree still has intact roots and you want to replant it outside, follow these steps:

  1. Keep the tree covered in a cool and dry place for 1-3 days to help it adjust to outdoor conditions.
  2. Remove any burlap coverings from the root system.
  3. Dig a small hole in the earth at least twice as wide as the root system of the tree.
  4. Place the tree into the hole, then fill with soil and tamp down softly and water.

Donate Your Tree to a Worthy Cause

Even if you’re done with your live tree, there are several organizations that would be happy to put it to use. Real Christmas trees can be donated to wildlife preserves or wetland restoration efforts after the holidays are over. Placing old trees in a lake helps form new fish habitats and curbs erosion of lakeshores and riverbanks.

You can reach out to your local government to see if there are groups in your area who can use your donated Christmas tree to better the environment.

 

"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 Hundley | National Christmas Tree Association
 

 

Compost Your Old Tree

The evergreen boughs from your Christmas tree are an ideal base layer for compost piles. Branches allow airflow at the bottom of the pile as they decompose slowly over time, providing the oxygen and heat necessary for the upper layers of the pile to decompose. Give branches a trim as 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.

Trees that have been sprayed or chemically treated with pesticides can be composted in small amounts, but may require extra time to break down before being reintroduced to soil as finished compost.

How to Get Rid of an Artificial Christmas Tree

While these last longer and require less maintenance than the live variety, artificial Christmas tree disposal is more difficult. Artificial trees can’t be mulched or recycled for environmental uses, but there are other options you can look into when it’s time to replace a fake tree.

Toss Your Artificial Tree for Curbside Collection

Many cities accept artificial trees, whether made of plastic or metal, as curbside bulk items if they don’t fit into your standard containers. According to your location, you may need to either wait until bulk pickup day or break your tree down into smaller pieces that fit into your curbside collection container.

Can I Throw My Christmas Tree in a Dumpster?

Since artificial Christmas trees usually count as general household waste and not yard waste, they can be thrown out in front load dumpsters at most apartments. However, it’s still a good idea to check with your rental office or landlord to make sure these bulk items are accepted by your trash hauling service. For larger households or buildings, a roll off dumpster can be rented to haul synthetic trees.

Take It to a Drop-off Location

Chances are, there are multiple places that will accept used fake Christmas trees near you following the holidays, such as:

  • Regional landfills
  • Home improvement retailers
  • Charity organizations
  • Government services

 

Recycle or Reuse Your Tree

While live trees can be easily recycled in a variety of ways, artificial trees are often made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which isn't recyclable and won't break down in a landfill. Also, most artificial trees are built with decorative fibers that are glued of otherwise fixed to metal frames, which can’t be recycled.

Can I Recycle an Artificial Christmas Tree?

Unfortunately, no. Artificial Christmas trees are made with PVC and other materials that can’t be recycled. However, some manufacturers and local recycling programs can process artificial Christmas trees and other decorations into reusable materials. You can contact one of these organizations for more information about keeping your tree out of the landfill.

Repurpose the Tree into New Decorations

With some creative handywork, an old artificial tree can be cut, bent and reshaped into a decorative wreath or garland. It can also be made into a table-top centerpiece or even a set of napkin ring holders. Research project and craft ideas for inspiration and find a new purpose for your old tree. Be sure to remove light strings before altering the tree and take caution not to cut any electrical wires.

Donate Your Artificial Tree

If you no longer need your Christmas tree, chances are it could be reused by someone else. Some thrift stores, nursing homes and charity organizations in need of extra holiday cheer will often accept and repurpose artificial Christmas trees.

Before donating used decorations, be sure to remove all tinsel, ornaments or additional lights that aren’t permanently attached to the tree.

Keep Your Holiday Clean and Green

When the season turns and it’s time to put the cheerful decorations aside, don’t let the cleanup chores get you down. Refresh your home to welcome the new year on the right foot, whether it’s with curbside pickup, taking your Christmas tree to a disposal site, donating or repurposing it.

While you’re throwing out your Christmas tree, it might also be a good time to organize your other holiday decorations.


Expert Contributors

Doug Hundley

Doug Hundley works for the National Christmas Tree Association in Chesterfield, MO which represents over 700 active Christmas tree member farms that produce three-quarters of farm-raised Christmas trees in the U.S.

The association works with over 4,000 affiliated businesses that grow and sell trees, or supplies and services, and is located across North and South America as well as Europe. The NTCA works with one voice to protect and advocate on the industry's behalf.

 

Recycling Christmas trees - how to hand over a Christmas tree for recycling in your city

The New Year holidays are over, and everyone who decorated the house with a live Christmas tree this year, it's time to think about its disposal. The vast majority of city dwellers simply take the trees outside, but this is not the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of a tree. We tell you how to throw away a live Christmas tree without harming nature.

If live spruce is simply sent to a landfill (that is, thrown into a regular trash can), then it, like any other organic garbage, will emit methane, which affects climate change. A two-meter tree decomposing in a landfill will release 16 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the forest, trees also die and fall, but in the natural environment, decomposition occurs under different conditions, in which dead wood becomes not urban waste, but a breeding ground for the growth of new plants and organisms. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to hand over the Christmas tree for recycling, they say in Greenpeace.

Where can I take my Christmas tree for recycling?

In Russia every year there are more and more campaigns for the collection and processing of Christmas trees and other coniferous trees.


What should be done before handing over the Christmas tree?

  • Make sure no decorations are left on your holiday tree. For example, a decorated tree will not be accepted into a zoo - it is dangerous for the health of animals.

  • Check in advance whether the selected Christmas tree disposal point is open on the day you need, or contact the organizers in advance to clarify the time when to bring the trees.

Greenpeace specialists and volunteers have compiled a list of addresses where Christmas trees are accepted for processing or donation to zoos. In most cases, zoos accept Christmas trees only from organizations and do not accept from citizens. If you want to donate your Christmas tree to a local zoo, first check if they are ready to accept it there.

Attention! Most cities are not on the list, however, during the first two months of the year, eco-promotions may be launched and new Christmas tree collection points may open. We recommend additionally looking for information about the Christmas tree collection point in your city.

Christmas tree recycling in Moscow

Mospriroda once again holds the Christmas Tree Cycle campaign and organizes collection points for New Year trees for their processing into wood chips. The list of addresses of Christmas tree reception points can be viewed HERE . The collection runs from January 2 to February 20.

How to compost your own Christmas tree

Karina Ivchenko

head of the public organization "Garbage. More. No"

- If there are no organized Christmas tree collection points in your city, then the tree can be sent to compost in the forest, park area or in the country. To do this, you need to cut the Christmas tree with pruners into small pieces (as far as possible) and bury it in a place where there is no lawn and where it will not bother anyone. You can use a tree, for example, to kindle a stove, and needles - in a garden plot. Needles, if covered with beds, retain moisture in the soil and retard the growth of weeds.

By the way, those who do not have collection points near their home can also dispose of Christmas trees in the same way.

How to throw a Christmas tree in the trash when there is no way to properly dispose of it

If you are not ready to take the Christmas tree to the collection point, as well as do the composting yourself, then the following recommendations are for you.

Marina Shalginsky

eco-trainer and eco-blogger, volunteer of the environmental movement "Separate collection"

Everyone who dressed up a coniferous tree for the holiday can take it out of the apartment, adhering to certain rules:

  • Trees should not be thrown into the general waste bin. Christmas trees are large-sized municipal waste, so throw them away, like other bulky waste, in special large-capacity bins.
  • Hopper-container missing? Cut branches off the tree. If the tree is higher than 1.5 m, it is advisable to cut it. Fold the branches and trunk together (you can tie everything with twine or a bandage). The resulting compact bundle can be put in a trash can. Do not throw unprepared trees into the trash. Firstly, branches can take up the entire volume of the container, and your neighbors will have to put garbage bags on the ground. Secondly, when loading a tree, it can cause damage to special equipment.
  • Do not throw the tree down the chute. This could be the cause of his congestion. Despite the fact that this is obvious, some tenants of high-rise buildings do just that.
  • Do not throw away the Christmas tree the old fashioned way, by attaching it to the garbage containers. From the point of view of fire and environmental safety, it is more reasonable to either properly prepare and take the tree to a bunker container or trash can, or hand it over for processing, where it will receive a second life.

How to properly dispose of an artificial Christmas tree

Dmitry Nesterov

Expert of the Greenpeace Russia Zero Waste project

- At the moment, the only answer to the question of where to take an artificial Christmas tree is to throw it away as ordinary garbage, because in Russia, as well as in the rest of the world, their processing is not established. That is, even if your house has a container designed for plastic, the artificial Christmas tree will not have to be sent to it, but to ordinary, unsorted waste.

Most often, artificial Christmas trees are made of metal and plastic. There is usually no marking indicating the type of polymer on them, so it is impossible to determine the type of material. In addition, Christmas trees are often made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is practically not recycled.

Some manufacturers make Christmas trees that contain bioplastics along with conventional polymers. But when mixing plastic and bioplastic at the end, we still have plastic that cannot be recycled and that will not decompose to a state that is safe for the environment.

Tatyana Nagorskaya

Chairman of the Board of the Ecological Movement "Separate Collection"

- Artificial Christmas trees are not accepted for recycling. The recommendation here is simple: such a product should be used as long as possible. Broke? Try to fix it. A discarded artificial tree ends up in a landfill, where it is likely to slowly decompose and pollute the environment for a long time. In addition, while in a landfill, artificial materials will sooner or later react with some kind of acids, which are usually abundant in this area, which will lead to the release of toxic substances.

Roskachestvo conducted a study of artificial Christmas trees. The results can be found HERE .

- It is desirable to use an artificial Christmas tree for at least 20 years, then the ecological footprint from it is minimized. Therefore, buy a quality product, - specifies Karina Ivchenko .

About why a natural Christmas tree is a more environmentally friendly choice, Roskachestvo told HERE .

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Moscow authorities told how to dispose of artificial spruces

Waste

December 30, 2020

More than 500 points for the disposal of live Christmas trees will be opened in Moscow in 2021. The points will start working on January 2, said Anton Kulbachevsky, head of the Department of Nature Management and Environmental Protection of Moscow.

“The action will last until February 20. All Christmas trees will be processed into wood chips. It is used in specially protected natural areas, for example, for backfilling trails. Also, shavings are used in the center for overexposure of wild animals,” Kulbachevsky said.

If live spruce is simply sent to a landfill, it, like any organic waste, will emit methane, which affects climate change. A meter tree decomposing in a landfill will release eight kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere.

A special program for the collection of artificial fir trees in the capital is not planned. The head of the department also said that artificial Christmas trees should be thrown into special garbage containers designed for plastic.

“Moscow is actively developing a system for separate waste collection. Artificial spruce is plastic. If we want to get rid of artificial spruce, we must use the services of separate waste collection, ”RIA Novosti quotes Kulbachevsky.

At the same time, activists note that the technologies used at waste processing complexes do not yet allow the artificial Christmas trees to be completely processed.

“You can’t burn an artificial Christmas tree. Bury in a landfill? Now everyone is struggling with it. So it needs to be recycled. But first you need to sort its components into metal and plastic,” Mikhail Kachurin, technical director and representative of a company producing waste processing equipment, supported the idea of ​​the city authorities.

The co-founder of the environmental movement "Separate Collection" Leonid Sinitsyn told the website "Ecology of Russia" - the national project ecology of the Russian Federation "that artificial fir trees contain elements that are completely non-recyclable.

“Plastic - most often it is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) - is a non-recyclable material, it is very harmful in processing, so no one undertakes to recycle it. Not all plastic and metal can be sorted on a conveyor, most often ordinary bottles, cans are selected, and everything else is sent to a landfill. There, these Christmas trees decompose in a normal environment for centuries,” said Leonid Sinitsyn.

For those who want to get rid of artificial spruce trees, the expert recommends placing an ad on second-hand sales sites, and next time purchase real ones.

“It is better to use live spruces for the holiday, they are grown specifically for this in nurseries,” the expert concluded.

Previously, the site "Ecology of Russia" - National Project Ecology of the Russian Federation "asked ecologists which symbol of the holiday is more environmentally friendly - a live or artificial holiday tree.

Photo: Cloudyyyyy – pixabay.com

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