How to Easily Get Rid of Your Christmas Tree in an Eco-Friendly Way

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Dec. 23 2020, Updated 9:49 a.m. ET

It’s a tradition that’s fading away, but many people still enjoy the process of hunting down and bringing home a real Christmas tree for the holidays. Now that the season is coming to a close for another year, most of these trees will be hurled out the door and into dumpsters. There are better ways to dispose of the holiday decoration that are good for the planet.

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Throwing away a natural Christmas tree is pretty wasteful. Stripped without the lights, ornaments, and other objects we put on it, the tree doesn’t offer any environmental hazards. Instead, the best way to dispose of the tree is to recycle it. A number of communities offer services that will either pick up these trees right from your home or drop-off times have been set through sometime in January.

Tree recycling services can be looked at through these handy Earth911 listings, in local newspapers, or a simple online search could bring up further results. Many Home Depot stores will also take old Christmas trees and recycle them free of charge; just call ahead and see if one that’s participating is close to you.

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Why is recycling trees so important instead of hauling them out to the landfills? It slows the process of other trash breaking down next to them. Things that are biodegradable need oxygen to deteriorate, and having trees littering a dump prevents that. Trees also contain biomass, which is a useful source of renewable energy.

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Once all the decorations are taken off these natural trees, recycling centers will generally turn it into mulch. This would give back to the environment and help flowers grow in the upcoming spring season. In some cases, like in Chicago, this could be a free return for the owner of an old Christmas tree.

Other recycling opportunities include fisheries taking these trees and putting them at the bottom of lakes to enhance the habitat for wildlife. They can be given to parks, where they’re broken down to create paths for hikers. For those wanting to do some work themselves, these trees could be repurposed in backyards for a short time until they’re easily broken down.

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Artificial trees have been rocketing up in popularity over the years as they’re getting more convenient to store and are looking more and more like the real thing. If it’s starting to wear down from years of use, it’s also important to keep those from reaching the landfill. Some tree recycling centers will even take the plastic variety and dispose of them properly. 

Otherwise, older trees could be donated to other families, thrift stores, or schools. If it’s unfit for further use, contact a local recycling center to see what parts can be recycled. Regardless of our use of living or artificial trees, it’s best to find a way to either break them down into other uses for our environment and wildlife, or to give them a new home if they fall in the latter category.

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