- Christmas trees make high quality mulch and compost material.
- Different regions may have different uses for Christmas trees after the holidays.
- Most municipalities offer Christmas tree recycling programs.
The tree stands tall in the living room. He faithfully attends to his new home, sheltering the neatly folded boxes that float beneath him. He wears shiny ornaments and bright lights. It’s worth a picture. It is this year’s Christmas tree.
About 30 million Christmas trees are sold each year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
But what happens to them when the holiday is over? There is no North Pole to return to these trees, like Santa Claus and his reindeer.
What about the trees that never went into a house?
It turns out that the Christmas tree gives just as much after the holidays as it does during.
What happens to unsold Christmas trees?
Not every pine tree leads to a cozy home. Some never leave the farm or the parking lot. But they all tend to share the same fate.
“The ultimate end point for unused Christmas trees … is to turn it into mulch,” said Richard Bates, a horticulture professor who teaches a class on Christmas tree management at Pennsylvania State University.
“There are usually thousands of established programs operated by municipalities or community-based groups that collect and chip and compost them — and sometimes even resell that end-use product,” Bates told USA TODAY.
What should I do with my Christmas tree?
You should find one of these programs in your area and recycle your Christmas tree when the holidays are over, experts suggest. According to Jill Sidebottom, spokeswoman for the National Christmas Tree Association, most cities and counties offer curbside pickup or provide Christmas tree drop-off sites.
The city of San Diego brings in north of 70,000 Christmas trees from residents through its recycling program, according to Ed Baskin, who helps run the program.
Baskin said trees tend to produce high-quality wood chips and mulch. In San Diego, the city uses the mulch and compost material produced from the trees in its parks and provides the product to residents free of charge.
Trees find other new life purposes depending on where they are. Some places, for example, collect the trees to fight beach erosion.
And some municipalities even put the trees in a pond because they make a great habitat for small fish, according to Bates.
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When should I take down my Christmas tree?
There is no definitive answer to this question.
Most people take their tree down after the new year. Some Christmas traditions call for the tree to be kept up at least through Epiphany on Jan. 6, when the three kings came to Jerusalem, according to Sidebottom.
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For safety’s sake, it’s best to keep your tree green and fresh by watering it throughout its life. A dried out tree in the house creates a fire hazard. Dry trees are also harder to mulch, according to Baskin. Make sure you remove any ornaments and decorations before recycling your tree too.