Isaac Weins and Kevin Haseney
The holidays may be over, but your Christmas tree can be evergreen. Trees are not trash and do not belong in a landfill, which is why most communities offer free recycling programs. When one person takes the initiative to recycle their tree, it can inspire the rest of the community to do the right thing too. Whether you are celebrating Epiphany on January 6 or just like keeping the Christmas spirit alive in January, there is an opportunity to give one last gift to the planet—recycle your Christmas tree.
The Importance of Tree Recycling
Bringing home a tree for the holidays is not always an environmentally-friendly process, so leaving the branches to waste away only adds to the harm. Cutting down trees takes them out of their natural environment and transporting them to tree farms and shops uses valuable resources, like fuel and energy.
To help reduce the environmental impact of taking home a Christmas tree, you should responsibly recycle it to keep it out of the landfill. Even though trees are biodegradable, they will not improve the environment by sitting in a trash pile waiting to decompose.
When trees are recycled, they can start a new life cycle beyond the holidays and help compensate for the damage done by harvesting them initially. Trees can be shredded to create mulch or fertilizer for public parks and playgrounds, be repurposed into soil erosion barriers by embedding them into the earth, serve as fish feeders in private ponds, or even be used as barriers on hiking trails. Most traditional tree recycling programs can offer insights into where the tree will go after it is picked up, either through their Web site or local program coordinator.
How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree
Tree recycling is a simple process and will not require more effort than trashing a tree would. Counties offer programs like transfer stations, drop-off centers, or curbside pickup services for residents—often free of charge—in the first few weeks of January.
Visit your county’s Web site for information, or you can call to ask about local holiday recycling programs. Most will have best practices for tree recycling and can offer specific details about curbside pickups, or they can refer you to the nearest county offering tree recycling programs. Another option is to look into local nonprofits or contact a Boy Scout Troop that might recycle trees for a small donation.
Some cities also provide yard waste containers for residents, so Christmas trees can be chopped up and placed into those for collection as well. The time frame of tree donation programs may vary from county to county, but Christmas tree removal typically takes place after the New Year and can run through mid-January.
If none of these options sounds appealing or convenient, local junk removal companies like JDog Junk Removal & Hauling often run tree pickups after the holidays or offer single-item pickups—just make sure the companies are environmentally conscious and will not dump your tree in the landfill.
Other Holiday Recycling Tips and Reminders
Christmas trees are only recyclable if they have had all of their decorations, like tinsel, removed and they have not been sprayed with any chemicals. If you used fake frost on your tree or painted any part of it, the tree may no longer be recyclable due to the chemicals in the sprays. There are some biodegradable paint options available, so if you need to paint your tree next year, make sure to check the label before spraying.
Also remember that Christmas trees are not the only holiday greenery that can be recycled. If your house was decked-out in all forms of pine needles, your obligation to the planet does not stop with your tree. Plant-based items like poinsettias, Christmas wreaths, and garland can also be recycled through local drop-off programs as long as they are not covered in chemicals and have all garnishes, like ribbons, removed beforehand.
While it may seem like Christmas trees and other greenery would decompose in a landfill, there is a much more resourceful and environmentally friendly way to clean out after the holidays. Make sure you start the New Year on the right foot.
Isaac Weinsis a recycling industry expert and the owner of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling Southeastern Wisconsin, a national Veteran and military family owned and operated franchise system. www.jdogjunkremoval.com.
Kevin Haseneyis a recycling industry expert and the district commander at JDog Junk Removal & Hauling Tampa, a Military Veteran Partners company that empowers Veterans, serves the community and protects the environment. www.jdogjunkremoval.com.