The holiday season is coming to an end. After the presents are opened and the wrapping paper is cleaned up, there’s just one last thing to do: take down the decorations, including the Christmas tree.

Whether you have a real tree dropping needles in your living room, or an artificial one that has seen better days, you need to know how best to dispose of your Christmas tree.

According to Cuyahoga Recycles, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill every year, but there are better and greener alternatives to tossing your tree in the trash. Give one of our suggestions a try, and start the new year doing something good for the environment.

How to Get Rid of a Real Christmas Tree

Once the decorations are boxed and the lights are removed, you’re ready to get rid of the tree. Here are commonly asked questions about how to dispose of your Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree on the Curb

Can I Leave My Christmas Tree on the Curb?

Many cities and counties do have a Christmas tree recycling service with curbside pickup. In this case, the trees are usually taken to a chipper to cut them into small pieces to be used as mulch. Check with your local department of public works for availability and collection schedules.

“Live trees must be cleared of all non-organic items. Make sure you remove lights, tinsel, decorations and ornaments before putting it out on the curb for mulching. Check with your city service department to see if there are any additional instructions for your community.”

Cristie Snyder | Programs and Communications Officer, Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District

If your whole tree isn’t accepted for curbside pickup, it may still be accepted as yard waste if prepared correctly. Check with your service provider to find out if it can be accepted if the tree is chopped up and placed inside a yard waste bag, or if other treatment is required.

“If a city or town has a Christmas tree pickup service, that would be my first choice. In my town, the Boy Scouts will pick them up for a fee or donation, and I believe they have them run through a chipper. Having them chipped would be my number one recommendation, if possible.”

David Morin | Past President, Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association

If you’d rather not leave your Christmas tree outside your house, look for a drop-off recycling center that collects trees after the holiday. Most counties have free drop-off locations.

Are There Options for Christmas Tree Recycling?

Yes, there are ways to recycle real Christmas trees. As mentioned above, some cities will collect trees for recycling. Also, some areas have organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America that host similar collections for a small fee.

You can also recycle your tree by donating it to an environmental organization that may have a unique use for old trees. Some zoos accept trees and use them as treats or playthings for animals. Certain wildlife organizations recycle Christmas trees as habitats for animals in the winter. In some areas, recycled Christmas trees are used to protect riverbanks, dunes or coastlines from erosion.

“If you have a larger backyard, put your tree out back as a natural wildlife habitat. The tree will offer cover for small animals during the cold winter months and will slowly break down over time. Other ideas include creating a fish habitat in a backyard pond or using the needles as mulch in your flower beds.”

Cristie Snyder | Programs and Communications Officer, Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District

You can use this annual tree recycling guide to find real Christmas tree recycling services near you.

Can I Recycle a Flocked Tree?

No. Flocked trees, which are made to look like they have snow on them, are treated with chemicals and need to be chopped up and placed in your regular solid waste bin. However, not all cities or counties will accept flocked trees in trash bins. Check with your local department of public works for more information.

Close Up of Flocked Christmas Tree Branches with Cones

Can I Compost My Christmas Tree?

“If your city does not chip trees for reuse, consider taking it to a local compost site. Composting is a more sustainable choice than sending a pine tree to a landfill.”

Cristie Snyder | Programs and Communications Officer, Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District

Composting is a great way to dispose of your Christmas tree and extend its use. The branches from your tree make a good base for a compost pile. If you take your tree to a chipper, you can use the resulting mulch in your compost heap.

Chipped Christmas Tree Pieces on the Ground

Can I Burn My Christmas Tree?

This depends on your location, as well as how you’re looking to burn your tree. As long as fires are acceptable in your area, repurposing a Christmas tree to use as firewood or kindling for an outdoor fire is fine. However, you won’t want to burn this wood in an indoor fireplace, because sap can stick to the inside of your chimney and cause a chimney fire. Chop up your tree and let the wood dry out for several months before using it in an outdoor fire pit or bonfire.

Can I Throw a Christmas Tree in a Dumpster?

Yes, a dumpster can be used to dispose of your tree. If you have a real tree, make sure your dumpster rental allows for yard waste. If you’re disposing of an artificial tree, any dumpster accepting general waste should be fine, but your tree will most likely end up in a landfill. Consider a recycling or repurposing option below if your artificial tree still has some joy to spread.


Artificial Christmas Tree in a Bright Living Room Next to Couch and Shelves

How to Dispose of an Artificial Christmas Tree

Artificial Christmas trees are a good alternative to real trees if you don’t want to buy a new one every year. But if your fake tree is on its last leg, try one of these artificial Christmas tree disposal methods.

Can I Recycle an Artificial Tree?

No, fake Christmas trees are not accepted in most recycling centers. But there are many ways to donate or repurpose artificial trees so they won’t end up in landfills.

Can I Donate My Artificial Tree?

We recommend spreading Christmas cheer by donating your artificial tree (as long as it’s still in good shape). Many nonprofits, such as thrift stores and Goodwill retail stores, will gladly take your artificial tree off of your hands. You many also find that senior centers, retirement homes, nursing facilities, hospitals and schools have a use for used artificial trees. We recommend calling any of these organizations first to see if they can benefit from your donation.

How Can I Repurpose My Artificial Tree?

Repurposing your fake Christmas tree is a great, eco-friendly way to keep the holiday spirit living on. Turn your old artificial Christmas tree into other types of holiday décor to use again next year:

  • Centerpiece: Simply cut off the top of your artificial tree and place it in a mason jar or vase for a perfect table centerpiece. You can then use the rest of your tree for the crafts below.
  • Wreath: Using wire cutters, remove the branches from the center part of the tree. Choose six or eight branches, and bend them into arches. Overlap the branches to form a circle and connect them with zip ties or wire.
  • Napkin rings: Turn the smallest twigs into festive napkin rings by simply shaping them into small circles and slipping them onto rolled napkins.

Tips for Cleaning Up After the Holidays

After recycling or disposing of your Christmas tree, you’re ready to tackle the rest of your holiday décor. For more help, head over to these resources: