Six Tips To Recycle Your Christmas Tree

A picture of Christmas trees leaning up against a fence next to trash cans, for an LCA blog on recycling Christmas trees.

The holiday decorations are coming down and live Christmas trees are already lining the curbs. But don’t just toss that live tree out with the trash! Consider an eco-friendly solution and recycle your Christmas tree instead. Most municipalities offer curbside pickup of Christmas trees, which are then turned into mulch or compost.

Residents of Bethlehem, Allentown and some other local municipalities can set their tree out for curbside pickup on certain dates — after ensuring all ornaments, tinsel, stands and hooks have been removed — and they’ll be taken to a compost facility. Contact your local municipality for details. Allentown will be collecting Christmas trees only on regular recycling days starting this Sunday, Jan. 7 until Jan. 12, and again from Jan. 21-26. But be aware — they are not accepting trees sprayed or “flocked” with fake snow, and ask that residents call the recycling bureau at 610-437-8729 for other safe disposal options. (Because the fake snow contains a number of chemicals, it cannot be used in compost or mulch.)

Some municipalities also allow drop-offs at their compost centers. Bethlehem’s compost center is at 1480 Schoenersville Road. Allentown’s is at 1401 Oxford Drive. Again, check with your municipality for details.

If you can’t recycle your Christmas tree that way, or want a different option, read on.

Here are a few tips from The National Wildlife Federation

  1. Create a brush pile with your tree as the base

A brush pile often consists of leaves, logs, and twigs so an old Christmas tree can make a great base. This is the easiest thing you can do with your tree if you have a yard. It directly benefits the wildlife in your backyard during winter months because brush piles and dead trees offer food and needed protection from the chill. We have suggestions for how to make a brush pile and we understand that not all communities allow for them.

2. Create Edible Ornaments

If you love to watch birds or want a fun project, you can decorate your Christmas tree with edible ornaments or popcorn strings so that you feed wildlife like birds and squirrels. This is an enjoyable activity to do with kids or the young at heart and can help wildlife at a time when food is scarce. Most of the following recipes call for peanut butter, fresh fruit (like grapes, berries, or apples), suet and bird seed:

3. Use it in the garden

There are a number of ways you can use your recycled Christmas tree to enrich your soil by composting it or using the pine needles and boughs to cover your garden bed. Chop the trunk and branches and break your tree down, this will allow you to add some nice insulation to your garden.

  1. Donate your tree to a local restoration project

There are all sorts of great local projects that take in Christmas trees and use them for restoration projects. At National Wildlife Federation, we have talked about using Christmas trees to help prevent wetland loss in Louisiana. Other projects have helped provide fish habitat, restore dunes, and even provide electricity or mulch for cities. If your county does have a tree disposal program, do a little digging to make sure you like where your tree ends up! You can also check out these additional ideas on how to recycle your tree.

Popular Mechanics also has a number of tips to recycle your Christmas tree, including:

  •  Use your bandsaw or hacksaw to cut your Christmas tree trunk into coasters and trivets. Make sure you sand down the surfaces and stain and seal them before using to prevent sap from leaking.
  •  If you’ve got a lake or pond on your property, consider dumping your tree into it. That old pine or spruce provides a natural and decomposing habitat for fish and will attract algae for them to eat. Some game and fishery departments will offer a drop-off service for trees that they will then use in community lakes and ponds. Just remember to remove all ornaments, hooks, and decorations before dropping it off.

And This Old House  has a few gems, too, including:

  •  Cut the trunk into 2-inch discs and set them into the soil to edge flower beds or walkways.
  •  Strip small branches and use the remaining twigs to support indoor potted plants or stake leggy seedlings.