Christmas Tree Disposal For Real & Artificial Trees

Whether you celebrate Christmas with a real or artificial Christmas tree, eventually it has to come down. While there is no set day for when you should take your tree down, there are suggested ways and methods for how you should dispose of it.

An estimated 10 million artificial Christmas trees end up in landfills each year. Today, there are many different solutions for real and artificial tree disposal. Let’s discuss the different ways to dispose of your Christmas tree once you’re ready to say “hasta la vista!” 

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree


Whether you’re in a small town or a big city, there are options for recycling your real Christmas tree. Most of the time, you’ll find choices like: curbside pick-up, tree drop-off locations, or yard waste (chop up the tree and put it in the dumpster for collection day).  Check with your local recycling center for programs available in your community.

Santa and Recycling a tree

Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is take off all holiday decorations and Christmas ornaments,  paying special attention to any pieces of tinsel left behind. If you want to dispose of your tree with less cleanup, consider using a Christmas tree disposal bag.

Major cities like New York City  ask you to bid “fir-well” to your live tree and bring it to the Department of Sanitation between January 2nd and 12th, where they will compost it and use the chips for the City’s parks, gardens and public spaces. 

NYC hosts a “Mulchfest” every year, where you can bring your tree and watch it get chipped into mulch, showing you exactly the type of positive environmental impact you’re making when you choose to recycle your tree.  They do, however, ask that you do not put your tree in a plastic bag for more eco-friendly recycling.

Many Home Depot stores provide free-drop off for your real tree. They will hire a company to chip the trees to mulch. They also advertise that you can rent or buy a wood chipper from them and mulch your tree yourself. 

Caution!: Never burn a real tree. A real Christmas tree contains high levels of creosote, which can cause a chimney or flue fire. The dry needles can also catch fire and spread more quickly than anticipated, so it is not recommended to burn a tree outside either. 


Unfortunately, there are fewer options for artificial Christmas tree disposal. They are usually not recyclable and typically end up in landfills. If you’re looking for a more eco-conscious solution, check with a local church, business, or organization like the Salvation Army to see if they could use your artificial tree. If your pre-lit tree is not salvageable but the lights are in good shape, you can recycle them through a holiday lights recycling program

Often times, Boy Scouts will pick up real trees from driveways for a fee or donation and chip the wood into mulch. This is a great way to support a local troop and saves you the trouble of hauling your tree anywhere. Win, win!

Support Wildlife

Check with your local conservation department  to see what options you have for supporting wildlife with your Christmas tree. Some communities use live trees for sand and soil erosion barriers for lake and river shoreline stabilization.

Depending on the type of tree you have and where you live, you can give the tree back to mother nature by sinking it into a lake for fish to use for food and habitat, put it in your backyard for deer to munch on, or for birds to make a sanctuary.

Shredded trees can be utilized on hiking trails, too. See if your community needs a renewable path material that helps serve the environment and hikers simultaneously! 

Thinking Ahead

If disposing of your Christmas tree is altogether something you’re not interested in, there is a less common, but highly eco-friendly option for you to try! You can buy a rooted Christmas tree to reuse year after year.

Christmas Tree in a Pot

Basically, you have the root containerized (or buy one that is ball-and-burlapped), display it in your home for Christmas, then replant the tree in your yard. It’s recommended to purchase the tree as close to Christmas as you can and keep it indoors for as briefly as possible. If you live in a region where the ground freezes, it’s advised to dig the replanting hole while the ground is soft. 

Though this method may not be the easiest option for you and your family, it is extremely cost effective and eco-friendly. If this seems like an option your family might enjoy trying, be sure to read up on the process involved in caring for your rooted tree before, during, and after the holiday season!

If you’re ready to put the tree away but not so ready to give up your holiday spirit, consider displaying your favorite Christmas ornaments all year long

Whichever method of Christmas tree disposal intrigues you this year, we hope your tree gave you and your loved ones memories to last a lifetime this past holiday season, and that the new year brings you even greater memories and traditions to enjoy with family and friends.

Happy New Year from Old World Christmas!

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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