Environment

Christmas tree recycling: Can it be done?

The short answer is yes, but the method varies depending on what kind of tree you have.

Christmas Tree

If you have a real Christmas tree, recycling can reduce your carbon footprint significantly. Image: Unsplash

We’re all looking forward to putting up the Christmas tree (if we haven’t already), decorating our homes, opening presents, and eating a delicious meal for Christmas.

But, it’s never too soon to think about what will happen after the festivities are over, particularly when it comes to Christmas tree recycling – if you choose to have a real one.

Not sure what to do with your Christmas tree once the festive season is over? We’ve got you covered.

Can you scrap a Christmas tree?

Some councils have policies against just dumping your Christmas tree in the bin or taking it to the tip, so it’s worth double checking what your council says is allowed. It is also worth noting that just throwing a Christmas tree into a landfill has a negative impact on the environment.

The Carbon Trust reckons a two-metre tree with no roots creates the equivalent of 16 kilograms of carbon dioxide when disposed of in a landfill – about the same as driving 10 miles.

What do I do with my old Christmas tree?

Approximately eight million trees in the UK end up during the holidays each year, producing the same level of emissions as nearly 100,000 extra cars on the road. Instead of sending your Christmas tree to a landfill, there are many other ways for your tree to conclude their loyal service to festive cheer.

The best way of recycling a tree without roots, which make up the majority of Christmas trees sold, is by bringing it to a recycling centre specifically catering to Christmas trees. 

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Many local councils offer a Christmas tree recycling scheme with local drop-off points and collections. The trees are then taken to be chipped and used as compost.

Can I put an artificial Christmas tree in the recycling bin?

No, artificial Christmas trees are usually made of plastic and therefore cannot be recycled. However, they may be better for the environment overall.

The Carbon Trust states that using an artificial tree for seven years instead of buying a real tree each year can reduce your carbon footprint significantly.

A man collecting Christmas trees from a farm. (Credit: Julianna Arjes/Unsplash)

How do you get rid of a fake Christmas tree?

As they can’t be recycled, you should consider whether the tree is in a decent enough condition to donate to a charity shop or a local community group that can give it to another family. 

Alternatively, you could cut it up for foliage decoration to use around the house or for a scrapbook if inspiration strikes.

Can you put Christmas trees in the green recycling bin?

No, you can’t just put a Christmas tree in your outside recycling bin. Use the official recycling scheme in your area instead and take trees to their drop-off points or arrange a collection. 

However, not all councils offer this scheme. If your local council does not yet have a specific drop-off point for Christmas tree recycling, you can take it to the garden waste section of the tip so it can still be recycled. 

The Recycle Now website has a list of recycling facilities across the country for different purposes, including Christmas trees. If you put your postcode in, it will tell you which recycling centres are closest to you and whether they offer Christmas tree recycling.

Your local council may have a Christmas tree recycling scheme. (Credit: Ecobomb/Flickr)

Can you recycle a Christmas tree yourself?

Yes, Christmas tree recycling at home is possible if you have the wherewithal and facilities to do so. If you have a shredder or are able to rent or borrow one, you can convert the tree into wood chip compost for your own garden. 

According to Gardener’s World, the chips should be stacked at the back of your garden for a few months to rot down before using them as mulch for your trees and shrubs.

The Christmas tree can also be kept until all the needles fall off, which you can then collect to use as mulch for any acid-loving plants you have, such as blueberries. The trunk can then be shredded too.

Another way of recycling the tree is to trim the twigs and branches into various lengths either to turn them into a wildlife shelter in your garden for bugs or to lay over plants to protect them from frost.

The Royal Horticultural Society suggests that an old Christmas tree can be used to make a dead hedge, which is composed of packed prunings held in place with stout posts. They write, “Christmas trees will make a good filler. Neighbours are likely to be keen to contribute their spent trees. This is another wildlife-friendly option.”

If you’re feeling creative, you can use the trees to turn them into coasters or other fun projects that can be given as gifts or kept for yourself. 

Can you leave Christmas trees outside?

You shouldn’t leave a tree outside on the ground or in your garden without properly replanting them. 

Can a fresh-cut Christmas tree grow roots?

Only Christmas trees with the roots intact will grow after replanting. If you bought a cut-down tree, they will not grow again after replanting.

Trees with roots intact can be replanted in your garden or in a larger pot. If this is your aim, you should start to prepare for replanting in November before the ground gets too cold for you. 

Alternatively, if you want to use a pot, you should make sure the plant pot you buy is big enough for the tree and its roots.

Replanting is great for the environment as it can reduce the carbon footprint by up to 80 percent and will increase the biodiversity in your garden.

Do potted Christmas trees survive all year?

If the tree has its roots intact and is planted in a pot, it will survive all year with the proper care. You can then reuse it for your Christmas next year.

Worried about having a sustainable Christmas? Don’t worry, you can have a pine-scented Christmas season while ensuring your carbon footprint remains low by using one of these Christmas tree recycling ideas.

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