Americans spend roughly a month, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, filling their homes with aromatic Christmas trees, sentimental decorations, neatly wrapped presents and, of course, friends and family. After the holiday season peaks on December 25th, people begin the rather unpleasant process of dealing with the Christmas clutter. We purchase more storage bins for newly acquired decorations, throw away broken ornaments and lights, and carefully dispose of a Christmas tree that sits dying in a pool of sappy water (unless you have a fake Christmas tree). Ah, tradition.

In my family we have always embraced the real Christmas tree, regardless of the mess and the headache caused by its disposal. While I do not have any scientific evidence to support my theory, I believe that the number one reason people opt for an artificial tree over a real tree is that they don’t want to deal with getting rid of it. Just thinking about pine needles and twigs all over the carpet probably makes artificial tree aficionados want to skip Christmas. But for me, the smell, the feel, the look and the experience of picking out the perfect Christmas tree every year trumps the challenges of taking the tree out to the trash.

Christmas tree disposal doesn’t have to be so terrible, though. And a real Christmas tree may actually be better for the environment. If you know how to dispose of your Christmas tree, your Scotch pine might not feel like such a royal pain.

Curbside Christmas Tree Disposal

dispose of christmas tree

Dispose of your Christmas tree properly.

Many cities and towns have a yard waste collection service or allow you to leave your tree out at the curb, making your Christmas tree disposal a breeze. After you’ve undecorated your tree (and I recommend NOT waiting until the tree is beyond dead), simply leave a pine needle trail from your front door to the curb. Or, to minimize the spread of pesky pine needles, place a Christmas tree disposal bag beneath your tree stand before you put your tree up early in the season (you can hide it under the tree skirt). Transferring the tree directly from the stand to the tree bag, will minimize the pine needle trail in your house!

Christmas Tree Recycling (aka Treecycling)

Many cities now offer Christmas tree recycling programs, or treecycling programs as they are sometimes called. Some local areas offer curbside pickup, while others may require you to drop off your Christmas tree for recycling at a specified location. If your community has a mulching program, they will chip and shred your discarded Christmas tree. Then, in the spring, you can pick up the recycled tree mulch for use in your yard for free. Each city is different so be sure to check with your local department of public works for detailed information.

Using Your Christmas Tree for Firewood

There are many ways you can reuse your Christmas tree, but using it for firewood or kindling is one of the most common uses. Just remember NOT to burn wood from your Christmas tree in your indoor fireplace. The sap can stick to the inside of your chimney and cause chimney fires – you have been warned! Let the repurposed wood dry out for several months before using in an outdoor firepit or in a bonfire.

Can You Throw Your Christmas Tree in a Dumpster?

tree in a dumpster

Do NOT throw your Christmas tree in a dumpster.

As a young adult, I learned about Christmas tree disposal the hard way. I was living on the 3rd floor of an apartment complex when I decided to carry on my family’s tradition of getting a real Christmas tree. When it came time to dispose of my Christmas tree, not only was there a pine needle trail 3 flights of stairs long, but once I got the tree to the basement, I was unable to fit it in a garbage can. We didn’t have curbside tree removal either. I panicked.

I went with the first solution that came to mind: to throw my Christmas tree in the dumpster rental at the business next door. Out of sight, out of mind. Shamefully, I now know that I likely caused that business owner to incur extra fines because of my tree fiasco. Trees, and yard debris in general typically cannot be disposed of in a regular landfill because they are highly flammable and bulky. So, NO, you can not throw your Christmas tree in a dumpster.

If you’ve been hesistant to bring a real Christmas tree into your home in the past for fear of a messy disposal process, fear no more. I realize a real tree isn’t for everyone, but for those considering a real Christmas tree next year, I hope you give it a shot and I hope it makes your Christmas a little bit brighter.