End of the Line For Christmas Trees

As the holiday season wraps up it’s time to dispose of Christmas Trees.  If you’re one of the 30 million households that got a cut live Christmas Tree, you’re probably thinking about disposing of it now.  Where I live we have curbside pickup of Christmas Trees as part of our Waste Management contract.  The trees will be chipped and composted as part of their yard waste program.  In doing a little research about our local program, I found that that thousands of communities around the country have similar programs.


Christmas Tree Recycling – Photo by Studio City Neighborhood Council

I spoke to our local Waste Management contact and he said that if you have a service like ours, where the trees are going to be chipped and/or composted, the most important thing to do is to put the tree out completely bare, with nothing covering it.

plastic bag remains after  tree is removed

Plastic bag removed before
tree was picked up

“But Alicia, I have a plastic bag already positioned under my tree so I can pull it up and over and carry it out of the house without getting pine needles everywhere, it’s brilliant!”  I know, it is a great way to keep from getting needles all over.   When my mom went to put her’s under the tree this year as we were setting it up, we discussed a great option: use the bag to carry the tree outside, then take scissors and cut the side of the bag and roll the tree out of it!

“Alicia, I didn’t see this post until after the pickup and they didn’t take my tree-in-a-bag, now what?”   If you put your tree out too late, or in a bag, you don’t have a lot of options.  You can NOT put it in your regular trash, dump it on your neighbors lawn or burn it.   You may cut it into short pieces and put it in a can to put out for the next yard waste pickup in the spring.

“Don’t burn it?  I always burn my tree!  It smells great!”   It so happens that burning wood puts soot into the air that is noxious to breathe.   You know how you sit around a campfire and you dislike it when the smoke gets in your face?  Well that’s a self-preservation instinct.   Smoke is bad for your lungs and releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.  Burning unseasoned wood (like a fresh cut Christmas Tree) in a fireplace is particularly bad for your chimney and can lead to chimney fires.  Burning yard waste is also illegal in Medford.

“I don’t know what my town is doing! What are my options?”   Check out Earth911 and search on “Christmas Tree” and your zipcode in their search box.  They’ll let you know what your local options are!  For more general tips, see the National Christmas Tree Association’s page on recycling Christmas Trees.

Fun Facts:

  • There are close to 350 million Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.
  • North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. 
  • There are more than 4,000 local Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
  • For every Real Christmas Tree harvested, 1 to 3 seedlings are planted the following spring.
  • There are close to 15,000 farms growing Christmas Trees in the U.S., and over 100,000 people are employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 – 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years. 

Happy Greening!


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  1. Thank you for posting this. Most people don’t know their options. I have another choice available to me: toss it in the backyard for my pet pygmy goats to chew on. After making sure ALL the ornaments are off it, of course, because they eat anything!

  2. Great article. You may be interested in a similar article I wrote about “Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to the Traditional Chrismas Tree”


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