How to recycle your Christmas tree

How to recycle your Christmas tree

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

220 guides

Once Christmas is out of the way, you'll have to decide how to dispose of your tree. Cut Christmas trees can be made into compost, shredded or burned while potted trees can be planted in the garden. But whatever you do, don't dump it on the pavement and risk a fine! Read on for 10 creative ways to recycle your tree.

Important features

  • Mulching
  • Firewood
  • Composting
  • Recycling centre
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Recycling your Christmas tree


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Towards the end of the year, our homes start to look a little sparklier than usual as extravagant displays go up to bring in the festive season. Outdoor Christmas decorations adorn our porches and gardens and light-up Father Christmases and snowmen welcome guests to homes decked out with all sorts of fairy lights and baubles. But once our indoor decorations go back in the box, there's one decoration that won't make it until next year: the Christmas tree. After starring as the guest of honour throughout the holidays, many real Christmas trees are simply thrown away. The worst part of all: our old firs and spruces couldn't be easier to recycle!

Today, the overwhelming majority of British households invest in some type of Christmas tree and over 8 million of these trees are real. While purchasing a real Christmas tree is much better for the planet than getting an artificial one, a large proportion of your tree's carbon footprint comes down to how you dispose of it when you're done.

Although you might have seen people do it, dumping your Christmas tree on the pavement is considered fly-tipping and is illegal. In fact, not disposing of your tree properly may even incur a fine.

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Christmas baubles and ornaments

10 great ways to recycle a Christmas tree


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  1. If you have a garden you might want to make your tree into compost or pass it through your garden shredder to break it down into chips that can be used for mulching.
  2. Any fallen needles can also be gathered and used for mulch. These needles can be scattered around the base of plants like hortensia or rhododendrons in the summertime to help keep the ground cool and to prevent water evaporation from the soil. Of course, this will also help to slow down weed growth.
  3. If you don't want to hang onto your needles for mulching, they can be soaked in water which makes for an excellent foot bath! Trust us, the antibacterial properties of the plant will work wonders for your skin.
  4. While pine doesn't make for the best quality firewood, it will do the trick in an open fireplace if you let it dry out first. Dry needles can also serve as very good fire-lighting material.
  5. Leave your tree to dry out for six months in the garden shed and your Christmas tree can be used as fuel for summertime barbecues! Its cut branches will produce decent embers alongside charcoal.
  6. Why not get crafty and use your old Christmas tree for a decorative project? From popping a few branches in a vase to processing the wood to edge a picture frame, anything is possible as long as you've got access to a drill and a saw!
  7. Take your tree to a recycling centre where it can be recycled for compost, firewood or chippings. Sometimes councils will even set up a drop-off point to save you travelling. Worth finding out about!
  8. Potted Christmas trees can be replanted in the garden and used the following year. Where possible, plant out on a frost-free day and water the base well. Adding compost will always give your tree a helping hand!
  9. If you don't have a garden and you've bought a potted tree, you could always offer it to someone who does and will be able to plant it out. Think about contacting a neighbour, friend or someone with access to conifer woodland.
  10. Just like a cut tree potted trees can also be used for compost, chippings or firewood, or disposed of at a recycling centre. However, you might regret not taking the opportunity to plant a tree!

Please note: flocked or frosted trees cannot be recycled as green waste since the flocking is made up of an adhesive mixed with cellulose or cotton fibre. The same goes for trees covered with artificial snow.

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Mulch

How to dispose of an artificial Christmas tree


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Although a natural tree is undoubtedly more eco-friendly, artificial trees are still common in homes at Christmas time. In fact, it's thought that just over half of all Christmas trees in the UK are fake which adds up to some millions of trees. Artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC which is a non-biodegradable material derived from salt and oil. But don't be in any hurry to throw out your artificial tree as, more likely than not, it will end up as landfill. However, it's still worth contacting your local recycling centre to find out whether parts of your tree can be re-used.

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Artificial Christmas trees

More information

Looking to cut down on your carbon footprint? Check out the following guides for more ideas.

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Guide written by:

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 220 guides

Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter

Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!

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