Christmas tree recycling: What to do when Christmas is over

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christmas tree recycling

Homes up and down the country are preparing for Christmas right now, with presents being wrapped, lights and candles being lit, and Christmas trees going up and being decorated. But once the Christmas season is over and it comes to taking the decorations down, what should you do with the Christmas tree? In this post, we’ll look at the options available to you and how you can help the environment.

How to dispose of your Christmas tree?

With the nation becoming more conscious about the need to do their part in the fight against climate change, especially after the targets set by the UK at COP26 earlier this year, today, there are many ways in which you can recycle, reuse or dispose of your Christmas tree. In this section, we’ll look at some examples you could think about for when you decide to take your Christmas tree down when the festive season is over.

When to take your Christmas tree down? While there is no exact date you should take your Christmas tree down by, traditionally, people leave their trees up until the 6th January - the 12th Day of Christmas. According to the Christian tradition, that is the day the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem.

Can you replant a Christmas tree?

If you bought a Christmas tree that still had its roots attached, you can actually replant it in your garden. Add a little bit of compost to the soil and watch it grow, ready in time for Christmas next year.

Use a bigger pot!If your tree came in a pot from the supplier, make sure you replant it in a larger pot. That way, it allows room for the roots to grow.

Turn your Christmas tree into mulch

As well as the option of replanting trees, you could use the needles and turn them into mulch for composting in the garden. Mulch is used for a number of reasons including improving soil moisture, preventing weeds from growing, improving the health of the soil, and enhancing the visual appearance of the garden. You can also turn the branches and trunk into wood chippings.

Take your Christmas tree to the nearest recycling centre

replant christmas tree

Some local councils offer kerbside collection services. In order for them to pick up your real Xmas trees, you should place them inside the organic waste recycling bin. If it does not fit, you are advised to cut the tree in half and either place it inside the bin or next to it. If the tree is too big, it can not be collected as part of the kerbside collection.

There are other options available to you though. You can take your tree to your nearest recycling centre. Councils tend to turn the trees into wood chippings for use in children’s playgrounds, for example. To find out where your nearest recycling centre is, search online for ‘Christmas tree recycling near me’.

Remove the decorations!Make sure all decorations and tinsel are removed from the tree and it is no longer in a pot or stand before recycling so not to cause problems in the recycling process.

Look for a treecycling organisation or charity

There are many organisations in the UK that offer dedicated Christmas tree collection services or Christmas tree recycling collection and recycle them in an environmentally-friendly manner. One such example is Proovia’s Christmas Tree Collection Service, available for £9. Money raised from this scheme is donated to various charities.

Trees for sea defences! While the standard practice is to replant trees or turn them into wood chippings, Fylde Council, in the north-west of England, use donated Christmas trees to reinforce sand dunes along the coast and act as a way to improve sea defences.

Real Christmas trees and their impact on the environment

When deciding whether to opt for a real Christmas tree or an artificial one, there are some environmental factors you could consider, for example:

  • Christmas trees support the environment: All trees play a vital role in storing carbon dioxide (CO2) and preventing even more greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere. When they are growing, Christmas trees play a key role in stabilising the atmosphere. In addition, they protect water supplies and provide a space for wildlife to flourish.
  • They are renewable: Christmas trees are grown on farms, like many other agricultural crops. For every tree harvested, farmers use the seeds to plant two or three new trees.
  • They are durable: Christmas trees are able to grow in quite harsh conditions, meaning they can survive on soil that could not be used to grow other crops and could be in danger of desertification.

Plastic Christmas treesWhile opting for an artificial Christmas tree may have some conveniences, such as being able to use the same tree year after year, they are, in fact, very bad for the environment. They are normally made from PVC, a petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastic, meaning that when you dispose of it, it will end up in landfill. In addition, many of them are made in places like China, meaning there is an environmental cost in terms of carbon dioxide emissions to transport them to other countries across the world.

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Rent a real Christmas tree

With people looking for ways to live in a more sustainable manner, the idea of renting a Christmas tree has been increasing in popularity in recent years in the UK. Choosing this option means when Christmas is over, you return the tree to the supplier you rented it from, and it is replanted for next year. But how does tree renting work? These are the simple steps you can follow:

  1. Find your local Christmas tree rental supplier and choose the tree you want;
  2. Pay the deposit - normally between £15 and £20;
  3. Collect the tree or have it delivered to your home;
  4. Make sure you follow the advice provided by the supplier on how to look after the tree - including watering it every day, keeping it away from heat sources such as radiators, and only having it indoors for three and a half weeks or less;
  5. Return the tree and get your deposit back if it is in good condition.

Facts about Christmas tree recycling

According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, every year in the UK, up to eight million Christmas trees are sold. Here are some interesting facts and figures about the impact of Xmas trees and recycling:

tree recycling facts
  • Nordman Firs are the most popular Christmas tree sold in the UK, making up about 80% of those decorated in homes across the country;
  • An average six to seven foot real Christmas tree is between 10-12 years old;
  • As well as the environmental cost, the financial cost of sending eight million trees to landfill would be around £22 million;
  • Only 10% of Christmas trees in the UK are recycled for compost or wood chipping;
  • An average Christmas tree will emit around 16 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) if it ends up in landfill.