Christmas Tree

How to Dispose and Recycle Your Holiday Tree

Updated April 1, 2024 . AmFam Team

The holiday season is a joyous time to spend with friends and family, but once the new year arrives and the wrapping paper is sent to the curb, it can be a relief to get your house back in order and start the year fresh and clean.

So when it’s time to remove your tree, have a plan to make it as simple and mess-free as possible — and maybe even do something a bit creative with it!

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

If you have a real tree, the Christmas tree disposal process is a little more complicated than putting an artificial Christmas tree back in the box. Rather than waiting for your tree to dry out, remove it as soon as you can after the holidays. A dry tree can be a dangerous fire hazard to have in your home. Check out these handy tips to get that tree out the door:

Remove ornaments and lights from the tree

Take down your garland, lights, and ornaments and remove the tree skirt and any straggling gifts still under the tree. Inspect decorations for any damage and throw out any beyond repair. Be sure to loosen the tree from your tree stand if it is screwed in place.

Use a Christmas tree disposal bag

Buy a large, Christmas tree disposal bag at a local hardware store or find an old sheet or blanket and wrap the tree before moving it outside. That way you’ll make less of a mess with sap and needles when hauling it out the door.

Christmas tree clean up

Once your tree is outside, sweep — don’t vacuum — the remaining needles. (Tree needles and vacuums don’t get along!) Then check your floor for water damage. If you notice any, you may need to rent a steam carpet cleaner to make sure the carpet doesn’t harbor mold. When that’s done, you can go ahead and move your furniture back to the way it was, pre-tree.

How to Dispose of a Christmas Tree

Many communities offer curbside pickup for Christmas trees, just check with your local waste management department. And know your local rules — some curbside pickup services can require you to break your tree down to smaller chunks. Now would be a good time to double check all of your ornaments have been removed.

Recycle your Christmas tree

If your community does not offer curbside pickup or you would prefer another option, you can contact your local recycling or brush collection center for a list of free drop-off sites. Recycling centers may be able to turn your tree into mulch for your garden, so be sure to ask if interested. Some home improvement retailers may take your tree free of charge too if dropped off.

Artificial Christmas Tree Disposal

Artificial trees can typically be reused, so consider donating your artificial Christmas tree if you don’t need it anymore. If your artificial tree is broken, you can usually throw it out by using curb pickup or placing it in a dumpster. Call your local waste management department to make sure this is the case for your community. Do not recycle your artificial Christmas trees, as usually they will not be accepted.

Flocked Christmas Tree Disposal

A flocked Christmas tree is when you apply a mixture of white, powdery material to the branches to make the tree look like it was recently covered in snow. If you have a flocked tree, it may not be accepted by your local recycling center.

Call your waste management department to learn how to properly dispose of your flocked tree. Most likely they will ask you to cut it into pieces for disposal.

Christmas Tree Recycling Ideas

Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with your tree. Winter is after all a great time for crafts and DIY projects. Before tossing it to the curb, try out these easy crafts:

  • Sink pieces of the tree in a backyard pond as a habitat for the fish
  • Use its branches to make a bird feeder
  • Carefully break off pieces to use as ornaments for next year’s tree
  • Cut the trunk into discs to use as coasters
  • If your tree has been chipped into mulch, use it to create or define your local hiking trail if approved by your community

Get a Smart Discount on Homeowners Insurance

Remember, never burn your Christmas tree or use it as firewood in the fireplace. The turpentine oil found in most evergreen trees is very flammable and may cause a chimney fire. Read more on house fire prevention.

While you’re working on ways to make your home safe from fire, be sure to check in with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn about discounts for smart home systems. In addition to increasing convenience and safety, you can get a discount on your homeowners premium, too!

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