Updated: Jan 18
The smell of pine and glistening lights are dazzling and it seems like it was just yesterday that you picked out the perfect Christmas tree.
But once the parties are over, the presents are unwrapped, and the needles hit the floor, what should you do with that forlorn little fir?
When the holidays are over, take down the glass ornaments, but don’t bag the tree. Its needles, boughs, and trunk are actually useful in more ways then you think.
Everything You Need To Know About Recycling Your Christmas Tree
Here’s everything you need to know about recycling or disposing of your Christmas tree in the Bay Area.
Why recycling your tree is important
Simply put, recycling your Christmas tree is an environmentally-friendly thing to do! Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can easily be reused or recycled (unfortunately, the same can’t be said for artificial trees).
Nationwide Americans chop down 25 to 30 million trees each year to celebrate the holidays, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Many of those trees end up in landfills, releasing greenhouse gases as they decompose, or in incinerators.
Cutting down and transporting Christmas trees does require energy and fuel though, so the Christmas tree life-cycle isn’t always the most environmentally conscious process when taking these things into account.
However, when trees are properly recycled instead of taken to a landfill, they have plenty of environmentally friendly uses after their holiday, which can help balance out some of the impacts.
The small extra effort to recycle your tree can help make a difference.
How Christmas trees get recycled
In most cases, trees are put into a chipper and repackaged into mulch. While others become fuel and are burned up in waste-to-energy plants.
In some cases, old trees are also used as habitats for wildlife. One of the more creative uses comes from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Its officers sink old trees to the bottom of California lakes where they help smaller fish hide from predators.
At the end of the day, depending on which city, trash hauler, county agency or landfill operator gets a hold of the post-Christmas centerpiece determines its fate. Which is why it’s important to make a conscious choice about where it ends up.
Important! Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or woodstove. Burning the tree may contribute to creosote (a byproduct of wood combustion that consists mainly of tar) buildup and could cause a chimney fire.
Where to recycle your Christmas trees in the Bay Area
Tree recycling is a simple process and shouldn’t require more effort than trashing a tree would. Most counties in the Bay Area offer programs like transfer stations, drop-off centers, or curbside pickup services for residents.
Some of these services are even free of charge in the first few weeks of January if you plan ahead.
Below, Nixxit has provided a list of some resources to help you properly recycle your tree after the holidays.
Local waste management
Curbside recycling pickup from your local waste management provider may be an option in your area, although there are often requirements. Some requirements include tree size and making sure all decorations are removed prior.
For example, Cities that use ACI can have their tree picked up curbside free of charge on regular service days from December 26th through the end of the third week in January. ACI requires that you remove all lights, decorations, tinsel, and the tree stand before placing your tree out next to your carts (flocked trees are not accepted).
They also require that trees over 6-feet tall should be cut in half and that you do not place your tree in any type of plas