- Christmas trees make high quality mulch and compost.
- 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. It faithfully serves its new home, sheltering the carefully wrapped boxes that swarm its base. He wears shiny ornaments and bright lights. It’s picture worthy. This 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 for these trees to return to, like Santa Claus and his reindeer.
What about the trees that never made it into a house?
It turns out that the Christmas tree gives just as much after the holidays as during.
What happens to unsold Christmas trees?
Not every fir tree comes to a pleasant home. Some never leave the farm or the parking lot. But they all generally share the same fate.
“The biggest endpoint for unused Christmas trees … is the conversion to mulch,” said Richard Bates, a professor of horticulture who teaches a class on Christmas tree management at Pennsylvania State University.
“There are literally thousands of established programs typically run by municipalities or community-based groups that will collect and then chip and compost them — and sometimes even resell the product for that end use,” 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 recommend. Most cities and counties offer curbside pickup or provide drop-off sites for Christmas trees, according to Jill Sidebottom, spokeswoman for the National Christmas Tree Association.
The city of San Diego accepts 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. In San Diego, the city uses the mulch and compost from the trees in its parks and offers the product to residents for free.
Trees find new purposes after death depending on where they are. Some localities, for example, collect the trees to fight beach erosion.
And some municipalities even deposit the trees in the pond because they make great habitat for small fish, according to Bates.
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When should I take down my Christmas tree?
There is no unequivocal answer to this question.
Most people take down their tree after the New Year. Some Christmas traditions call for the tree to be kept at least until the apparition on Jan. 6, when the three kings arrived in Jerusalem, according to Sidebottom.
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To be safe, it’s best to keep your tree green and fresh by watering it throughout its life cycle. A tree that has dried out at home is a fire hazard. Dry wood is also more difficult to cover, according to Baskin. Be sure to remove any ornaments and decorations before recycling your wood as well.