Where Does Your Old Christmas Tree Go?


The holiday season has been over for a month, yet some households still have their Christmas trees up and decorated, or undecorated, outside and ready to go. Others have already disposed of their seasonally indoor trees, but where do the trees go after their festive use has finished? And what can you do with yours, if it is still hanging around?

First, the “don’ts”. Don’t ever burn your trees! In addition to adding pollutants to the air, it is usually illegal to burn brush and waste. Don’t send your tree to the landfill! There are many established Christmas tree recycling programs, so think twice before placing your firs, pines, or spruces along the road with your other refuse. Help reduce the amount of organic material being landfilled. There are much better ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Don’t dump your tree on county or state open space or park land. Not only is this unsightly, but it creates a potential stress on the native ecosystem by introducing non-native species of plants and insects. Most importantly, dried out trees that are small enough to tumble around become dangerous fuel for forest fires.

What you can do. Recycle! Specifically, Howard County has a dedicated site at Alpha Ridge Landfill that is open all year, Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm. Be sure to remove all ornamentation from the trees, and to cut them into less than 4 foot lengths. Bundles should not exceed 40 lbs. In Baltimore County, the Western Acceptance Facility in Halethorpe, accepts Christmas trees from mid-January to mid-March for composting. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Trees picked up by county recyclers or delivered to recycle stations are turned into compost and mulch that can be purchased later in the year for your gardens. For Howard County products visit here for more information. In Baltimore County mulch, when available, is free of charge to residents from the White Marsh facility. Please call 410-887-2000 ahead of time to check on availability.

If you want to use the tree for your own mulch or composting, you can cut the tree down to size so that it will fit into your yard waste container, or rent a wood-chipper if you have the desire to do so. The trees can also be sunk into private fish ponds, acting as a refuge and feeding area for the fish. Likewise, they can be refashioned into a bird feeder in your yard or garden. Fresh orange slices and popcorn without added oil, salt, caramel, or butter can be strung in the branches. Within a year, the branches will become brittle and the trunk will be more easily fed through a wood-chipper. Make sure the tree is secured so that winter winds don’t blow it away.

Ideally, you can buy a tree meant to live through Christmas, whether it’s ball and burlap or containerized, and then plant it in your yard afterwards. It’s best to dig the hole for the tree while the soil is still soft in late fall, then plant it after the festivities have concluded.

There are many different ways to recycle your Christmas tree for a variety of uses, so think twice before simply tossing it in with the garbage, or setting it aflame!

Tree dumped along side of the road in #Patapsco

Tree dumped along side of the road in #Patapsco. Photo credit: Jon Merryman