Recycle your live Christmas tree

By Tara Fodor

OSU Ext. Master Gardener Volunteer

When the Christmas season comes to a close and it’s time to take down the tree, don’t just take it out with the trash.

Your fresh tree is biodegradable and has many uses that will keep that perfectly good organic matter from the landfills.

Once the ornaments, lights, tree stand and other Christmas decor have been removed, the tree is ready to be reused and recycled.

Fresh Christmas trees can be recycled and used as mulch, erosion barriers, wildlife habitat, winter protection for plants, new pathways and more. There are usually multiple recycling options available in your community. Some will collect and grind the trees each spring to be used as mulch in the neighborhoods.

The trees may also be used on special projects that may include providing a soil erosion barrier for ponds, lakes, or rivers. Trees used in this situation stabilize the shorelines and also provide habit for fish and aquatic life.

Be sure to check with your local recycling drop-off centers, township and municipal departments or curbside recycling programs and pickups.

Your fresh tree may also be taken outside the home (again, free of lights and ornaments) and be set up as a wildlife shelter. Place it near a bird feeder or hang bird treats in the tree and allow it to serve as a wild bird winter shelter and sanctuary. Within a year, the branches will become brittle enough to break apart for mulch or compost. You can even use a chipper to create mulch for walkways or gardens from your tree.

Tree boughs can also be cut off and used to protect plants in the landscape. The boughs can be placed around plants that need a little extra winter protection, as some perennials tend to be damaged by strong winter winds or frost heaving.

Some fishermen sink clusters of Christmas trees in lakes or ponds to create the perfect secret fishing spot which only they know about. Old Christmas trees provide shelter and security where fish can spawn and are a great habitat for crappie and bluegill.

And finally, there are many crafty uses for the tree trunk. With a little creativity, an old Christmas tree trunk can be turned into a garden bed border, coasters, ornaments and more. Just take a peek on Pinterest — it’s full of ideas.

For a fact sheet outlining these and more uses for your tree, go to

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