Here’s How To Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Apartment life often means limited space, so fitting a standard-sized Christmas tree into your living room can be challenging. Smaller trees (and many other ways to decorate for Christmas in an apartment) exist, but you might be tempted to dispose of even these less imposing trees between this holiday season and the next. While your town likely has a special schedule to dispose of Christmas trees after the holidays, you may wish to return your tree to the planet in a more organic and earth-friendly way. You may want to find ways to recycle your tree or find organizations that may repurpose your tree – here’s how to recycle your Christmas tree.

1. Strip the tree

Stripping your tree doesn’t mean cutting off all its leaves – it just means returning it to how it looked when you first bought it. That means taking off all the lights, tinsel, ornaments, and other decorations with which you’ve adorned it. You’ll also want to separate the tree from its stand. You can easily save these items in your closet for next Christmas so you don’t have to spend on them again next year, but you might want to dust them off and clear them of pine needles.

2. Buy a tarp

No matter how you choose to recycle your tree, it will shed its needles at some point during the process. Minimize the amount of shedding that you’ll have to clean by buying a tarp and rolling your Christmas tree in it once you’ve stripped it (you can also place the tarp under the tree while you strip it). As you transport the tree out of your apartment, the tarp will prevent any needles from hitting the floor. When your tree reaches its final destination, unwrap it from its tarp and dispose of any shedded needles in a compost or trash container.

3. Find a tree recycling program

If you just leave your Christmas tree at your curbside like any old trash bag, then when trash day comes around, your tree will almost certainly get bunched in with the trash, defeating the whole point of recycling. Instead, scour the internet for a tree recycling program. Each program coordinates tree pickup somewhat differently – some do use curbside pickups, but others ask you to bring your tree to a drop-off recycling center – so be sure to read the instructions and rules carefully. Some curbside pickup options may also require you to cut your tree into shorter segments.

4. Consider environmentally-friendly alternatives

If setting up a tree recycling opportunity feels like too much work, then you have another option, especially if you tend to outdoor plants behind your apartment or at a nearby community garden. Christmas tree branches can be used as mulch that helps plants grow. Simply strip your tree of its branches, shake the branches to remove dead needles – for this step, you might still want to have a tarp on hand – and place the branches wherever you need mulch. The pine needles still living on the branches take time to decompose, so they work well as mulch for all manner of plant life. 

If you don’t have much reason for mulch, there are plenty of other environmentally-friendly uses for your Christmas tree. Consider using your Christmas tree for hiking trail maintenance, wetland habitat preservation, sand dune restoration, and other eco-friendly purposes. Your tree isn’t just a vital holiday decoration for your home – it can make a difference in the homes of wildlife too.

Do you have other ideas for how to recycle a Christmas tree? Share them in the comments!

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