What to do with that once-live tree
Christmas is over, and you're left packing up the lights and ornaments and wondering what to do with the Christmas tree. Put it out by the curb for trash pick-up? Maybe. Put it in a corner of the yard and believe it may break down? Not in your lifetime. So what?
Pickyourownchristmastree.org claims many communities have recycling services to put your old Christmas tree to new life as a wildlife sanctuary, on a sand dune to protect the beach, chipped for mulch or as a bird feeder.
What Are Your Recycling Choices?
After the holidays, don't throw away your natural tree. Here are some tips on what to do with your tree after the holidays. In general, you have these options:
Curbside pick-up for recycling. Most areas will collect trees during their regular pick-up schedules on the two weeks following Christmas. There are often requirements for size, removing ornaments and flocking.
A local Allied Waste representative said they will pick up trees curbside in Minden. Just place your tree on the curb – not in your Allied-provided trash can – and they will pick it up on your regular trash pick-up day. (Remember this week and next week, all pick-up days except Monday are one-day off the regular day.)
Call for an appointment to have a non-profit in your area pick up your tree. Some boy scout troops are offering a pick-up service for a small donation (often $5).
Take your tree to a drop off recycling center. Some parishes have free drop-off locations. Usually, you may take up to two trees to drop-off locations at no charge.
Cut the tree to fit loosely into a yard waste container.
Other tips and ideas
Removing the tree: The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree is to place a plastic tree bag (which are available at hardware stores) underneath the stand when you set the tree up. You can hide it with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are done, pull the bag up around the tree, stand and all, and carry it outside.
Obviously, you will want to remove the stand before recycling the tree. If some needles do scatter inside, it is better to sweep them up; as needles can clog vacuum cleaners.
Tree Recycling / Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation. Check with local department of public works for information. They chip and shred the trees, then make the mulch available for use in your garden. Your hauler will notify you of pick-up dates in your area. There are a few things you must do to make your tree ready for recycling. Here are some general tips, but be sure to check with your local hauler as these are just general guidelines.
Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management (Louisiana does both).
Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds trees make excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed).
Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. If you have a neighbor with a chip, see if he will chip it for you.
Paths for Hiking Trails: some communities use the shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
Living, rooted trees: Of course, next year, you could get a rooted (ball and burlapped or containerized) tree and then plant it in your yard after Christmas. (It's a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.)
NOTE: Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates, than in a northern area.
Important: Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils. Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.
Unless otherwise noted, all stands, lights, decorations, and tinsel must be removed. Artificial Christmas trees can not be recycled. They must go out with the garbage.
General tips for most haulers:
Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and other non-organic decorative materials. This includes tree stands also.
Trees are often required to be cut into four-foot lengths; so you may need to cut your tree in half. In some locales, the trees must be cut small enough pieces to fit inside your green (yard waste) container.
Flocked trees will often need to be chopped-up and disposed with regular solid waste. Each area has different requirements, so be sure to check with your hauler's website.