How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree Once the Holidays Are Over

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated November 23, 2021
Mother and son carrying a Christmas tree
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Highlights

  • Christmas trees can be recycled, composted, and repurposed in your home and garden.

  • Research whether your town or city provides a curbside tree pickup service in January.

  • You don’t need to throw your Christmas tree into the regular trash. 

  • Use evergreen trees and their needles as mulch in your yard.

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You covered your Christmas tree in twinkling lights and gathered around it on Christmas morning, but now that the holidays are over, it’s time to say goodbye. Depending on the type of tree, you’ll need to remove it from your home before it becomes a fire hazard or a mess. But what’s the best way to dispose of it? Here’s what to do when you’re ready to get rid of your Christmas tree.

How Do I Dispose of My Christmas Tree?

Disposal of the christmas tree after christmas
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If you’re ready to move on from the holiday season, follow these steps to dispose of your Christmas tree properly.

Christmas Tree Collection Service

In many urban and suburban areas, a free curbside Christmas tree collection service is available during the first few weeks of January. If you live somewhere that offers this service, all you need to do is:

  • Check with your local city to find out the collection dates

  • Ensure that you remove all ornaments, lights, and decorations from the tree

  • Bring your tree out to the curb, usually where you put your trash cans

In larger cities, like San Francisco, there are typically multiple-day options. In some cases, cities will use the trees for compost or chip them into mulch to spread across city parks.

Yard Waste Disposal

If you do not have a local collection service, you can contact a yard waste disposal company and arrange a pickup, which may cost a fee. If you can’t arrange for a pickup, bring your tree to the nearest yard waste collection site, similar to how you dispose of excess leaves or other yard waste.

How Can I Recycle My Christmas Tree?

To give your Christmas tree a second life, you can recycle it into mulch or compost to use in your garden. Pro tip: The tree’s needles can make excellent mulch that can help your plants retain moisture. 

To recycle your Christmas tree, you’ll need a wood chipper and a chainsaw or a sturdy hand saw, depending on the size of your tree. First, chop the tree into as many small pieces as possible, and then layer them into your mulch pile. It takes several years for larger pieces of wood to decompose, which is why it’s best to chip the wood. 

The final step is to rent a wood chipper to transform the pieces of your Christmas tree into mulch. If you need help turning your tree into mulch chips, contact a local tree service. Professional wood chipping typically costs between $70 to $150, depending on the size of the tree.

Additional Ways to Reuse Your Christmas Tree

Not interested in chipping your tree into mulch? No problem. There are plenty of other ways to reuse your Christmas tree.

  • Use the tree to create a backyard habitat for winter wildlife. Place it in a nook in your garden and consider adding a birdfeeder. You’ll likely get squirrels and birds alike looking for a place to shelter.

  • If you have a pond on your property, you can submerge your tree in the water to create a habitat for fish.

  • Remove and reuse the branches to create an edge in your garden, or use them for stakes.

  • If you have a chainsaw, slice the trunk into discs (this involves some sweat equity, but it’s worth it). Let the trunk discs dry out and cure in your garage, and then use them as organic pavers in the spring.

  • Use the discs cut from the trunk as all-natural drink coasters. After letting them dry completely, consider finishing the disc with a coat of varnish to prevent sap leakage.

  • You can save some of the needles to use in potpourri.

How To Dispose of Alternative Types of Christmas Trees

Many people opt for low-maintenance artificial Christmas trees over real Christmas trees. If you’re unsure about how to dispose of your artificial or flocked tree, follow these guidelines.

Artificial Trees

Many families choose to decorate an artificial Christmas tree so they can use it for several years. However, even artificial Christmas trees have a life span.

If your artificial tree looks a little worse for wear, it may be time to throw it out. Since this type of tree usually qualifies as general household waste, you can place it in the trash, similar to other large household items. Do not place artificial trees out for collection on Christmas tree collection day. 

You can also consider donating your artificial tree to a nonprofit organization, like Goodwill, or a local thrift store to spread extra holiday cheer.

Flocked Trees

Flocked trees are real Christmas trees that are coated with white (or pink or blue) spray. Flocking spray is synthetic, which means it contains fine fibers that cannot be recycled or composted. If you have a flocked tree, you should dispose of it in the trash, similar to other household waste. Your best bet is to chop the tree up into smaller pieces, bag it, and throw it out.

General Tips for Christmas Tree Disposal

Regardless of how you dispose of your Christmas tree, ensure that you complete the following steps:

  • Remove the tree from your home before it dries out to avoid dropping tree needles during transport.

  • To help catch the falling tree needles, wrap a tree disposal bag, a large plastic bag, or even an old sheet around your tree.

  • Triple check that you remove all of your ornaments, lights, and other decorations before getting rid of your Christmas tree.

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