Treecycling: Christmas Tree Recycling

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The smell of a live tree is part of the magic of the holidays for many people. In North America, between 30 and 35 million trees are sold at Christmastime.

While reusable, or at least replantable, trees might be the ideal choice, the realities of economics and family traditions means that many people go with the cut tree instead. In addition, given that reusable trees are often made from non-recyclable PVC materials, and the choice isn’t as clear.

Kept watered and fed, cut trees can last for a month or more, but eventually comes the time to dispose of them. Before you do, ensure that all decorations are removed, especially tinsel. The last thing the environment needs is more small bits of plastic floating around.

While many municipalities offer curbside collection programs, not all of them do Treecycling. It is important to check that your tree will go into treecycling rather than a landfill. Most areas only offer pickups at a specific time, but many will also accept trees brought into depot locations.

In treecycling, former Christmas trees are turned into mulch, to be used in projects like gardens, paths, and compost.

If your municipality lacks a treecycling program, there are things you can do yourself.  The needles make an effective mulch, and can simply shaken out of a dry tree. . While the trunk, dried, makes good firewood for an outdoor fireplace. Due to the high creosote content, though, wood from the typical Christmas tree is not suitable for burning in a fireplace or wood stove. If a wood chipper is available, then the entire tree can be made into mulch to protect garden, paths, and flower beds.

Some areas have even more creative uses for tree collected in curbside programs. In Louisiana, for instance, they are used for shoreline erosion control. Other areas use them for feeding birds, or fish, and even slope stabilization.

After celebrating the Holiday season with you, your Christmas tree can have a new life in support of environmentally-friendly measures.

  • Colin Dunn

    Colin Dunn was born and raised in Northern Alberta. Growing up in the boreal forest gave him an appreciation for nature, an appreciation that was enhanced by the works of his artist mother, Svala Dunn, who captured the landscapes and wildlife of the north in her oils and watercolors. He holds a Degree in Geography from the University of Alberta, with a concentration in Urban Studies. He has since found career in information technology, but still pursues his first interests in geography and the environment. He lives and works in southern Vancouver Island, with his wife and three children.

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