Christmas is over and a new year is here. It is increasingly the trend to take lights down soon after New Year, even though tradition dictates that Christmas in the western world does not end until 5th January. Once the lights and decorations are away, you’re left with the question of what to do with the tree. Every year, UK households dispose of around 6 million real trees. If you prefer fake trees and it has come to the end of its life, there are options for this too.
Disposing of Real Trees
Real trees come in two forms: with roots and without roots. If you have the latter, it is not a complete tree but a cutting. You will not be able to keep it for next year. If you have a wood chipper or known somebody who does, mulching the tree is the best environmental disposal option. Most local councils that offer a green waste collection will take trees in the immediate weeks after Christmas. They will take it away free of charge. If you miss the deadline or they do not offer such a service, your local household waste disposal facility should offer green waste recycling.
If you purchased a tree with roots, unless it is dying you may not need to get rid of it. Put it in a large pot and it will live in your garden. Your spruce or fir is an evergreen and will add to the colour come spring and summer. If it is a young tree, a larger pot will help it grow meaning a larger tree for next year. Don’t put the potted plant in a tray – it needs the drainage.
What Happens to Recycled Chipped Trees?
If you have a chipper or know somebody who does, it’s worth mulching your tree. Green waste such as mulched trees can make the best compost and it will happily sit in your composter until the spring.
When you send your tree to a recycling depot, they are removed and taken to specialist depots where the trees are left to rot. The material will slowly break down. A Christmas tree makes a good compost as they possess weed resisting properties. Some of the chipped wood goes to The Forestry Commission where the material will top up the soft ground on woodland paths. Check with your local council as some may offer back your mulched tree for your garden. They may charge a small fee or offer it free of charge. Giving away your real tree is better than landfill in every way.
Disposing of Fake Trees
The main appeal of the fake tree is that you don’t spend time picking pine needles out of the carpet for the first six months of the year. This is less of a problem since the introduction of new cultivars that make dropped needles less of a problem, but it is never going to go away completely.
The major reason most people buy them is that they last many years. Although made from plastics (not eco-friendly), the average lifespan is ten years – more in some cases with the better quality artificial trees.
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to recycle fake trees. They are manufactured using the wrong type of plastics. Genuine recyclable fake trees may be several years off and most of these trees will go straight to landfill. That’s not to say they are a poor environmental choice. If you are bored with your tree and want a new one (while there is nothing wrong with it), simply donate it to charity instead of throwing away a perfectly good tree. It will get many more years of life.