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How to Dispose of a Real Christmas Tree

January 1, 2021

Adam Janke, assistant professor in natural resources ecology and management and extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State University, offers these special tips for getting rid of your live Christmas tree after the holiday season.

Trees can be disposed of in many different ways. One way to dispose of your tree is to drop it off or have it picked up by a recycling center. Be sure to make arrangements in advance, and make sure the recycling center accepts trees.

Christmas tree disposal by Hanna/

Before donating, make sure all lights, tinsel and ornaments have been removed.

“If the trees are clean, they can also be set out in yards, along forest edges, in old fields, pastures or other idle areas to provide shrubby habitat for birds and rabbits,” says Janke.

If the property is not your own, be sure to ask permission before disposing of your tree. Explain the benefits to wildlife and the environment, but understand that leaving your tree behind is at the discretion of the land owner.

You can also improve fish habitat with leftover Christmas trees.

“If you have ponds with fish in them, tie two concrete blocks to the trees and set them in a deep spot of the pond on the ice this winter and let it sink to become a habitat for fish in the spring,” says Janke.

Outdoor burning can also be accomplished, but requires safe distance from other structures and should be done with care, since pine needles ignite and burn fast.

Do not burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Dry, evergreen branches literally explode when burned and could cause a house fire. Also, burning the tree may contribute to the buildup of creosote and lead to a flue fire.

Additional options and recommendations for recycling poinsettias is available in a Yard and Garden article written by Richard Jauron, retired horticulturist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

Whatever you decide to do with your trees, be sure to consider environmentally friendly options and the opportunity to improve wildlife habitat.

Source: Iowa State University