There’s nothing like the smell of a real Christmas tree, and for a lot of us, it’s not Christmas without one. In fact, in the US, around 22 million Christmas trees are purchased every year (“Christmas Tree Purchases By The Numbers”). But what do you do with your tree once Christmas is over? Good news, there are many great ways to recycle your tree, keep them off our roadways and prevent them from doing more harm than good.
1. Replant It
One of the newest trends is buying a Christmas tree with roots attached. Several Christmas tree farms in Tennessee, as well as many big box stores, offer this option that allows you to plant it after Christmas and watch it grow for many years to come. (“The 9 Best Christmas Tree Farms in Tennessee!“)
2. Have It Picked Up
In many city and suburban areas, Christmas trees are collected from curbside during the first 2 weeks in January by either your solid waste management company or county brush pickup. Your tree will be turned into mulch or recycled in other ways by your city or county.
Be sure to remove all lights, wire, tinsel, ornaments, nails, stands, other non-organic decorative materials and anything else that is not part of the original tree. Flocked trees are usually accepted, but not artificial trees. Large trees (over 7 ft) may need to be cut in half to be acceptable for disposal. Check here or with your local resources to find out more. (Tennessee: Where and How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree After the Holidays January 2022)
3. Donate It
If your area doesn’t offer pickup, you may be able to bring it to a local recycling or mulching center (check our handy recycling guide for more info). Every year the trees are chipped and made into mulch which is usually made available and accessible to city or county residents.
You may also donate it to your local zoo or wildlife center (make sure to call ahead and ask if they can use it). Discarded Christmas trees are regarded as tasty treats by some animals, such as giraffes, zebras and even goats. Bears and large cats also enjoy playing with them. It’s a great way to reuse your tree and give it a second life.
4. Create a Wildlife Shelter
If you have room at your own house, your old tree can be turned into a shelter for small animals and birds or even fish. Stand your tree or a few of the larger branches in your backyard as a home or feeder for birds or you can sink pieces of your tree into a backyard pond as a refuge and feeding area for fish. Pine and other evergreen trees break down quickly, so it’s a great way to dispose of your tree responsibly.
5. Use It For Crafts
You can make a bird feeder from the stump or branches. Branches can also be used for potpourri. Just mix them with cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices and cranberries for a festive smell around your home. Thin slices of the trunk can be cut and turned into coasters or ornaments. They would make great gifts or décor for next Christmas!
DON’T drop your trees off at landfills or dumpsites. There are so many other ways to dispose of them, and taking trees to landfills creates more harm than good.
Also, refrain from burning your tree in your fireplace as a way to dispose of it. Evergreen’s flammable oils will coat your chimney with creosote and increase your risk of a fire. Burning it outside also sends the tree’s carbon back into the atmosphere, so it’s best to avoid burning it all together.
However you get rid of your Christmas tree, TDOT encourages you to dispose of it safely and sustainably after the holidays!