/ Home & Energy

How do you dispose of your real Christmas tree?

Christmas tree in a bin

Twelfth Night is fast approaching, which means it’s time to put the Christmas decorations away. But with so many options available, what is the best way to dispose of your real Christmas tree?

We recently ran a survey to find out how you dispose of your real Christmas trees every year, and found that the majority of you (32%) prefer to put your tree in your compostable waste street collection. But on the other end of the scale, 2% of you admitted to simply leaving your unwanted tree out in the street.

Other popular options for getting rid of Christmas trees included taking them to designated tree recycling points (24%), leaving them for specifically organised street collections (15%) or burning them in the garden (14%).

Getting rid of your tree

So what’s the most eco-friendly way of disposing of a tree? I found it surprisingly hard to get a consensus on this. The Carbon Trust told me that the most environmentally friendly solution is to chip the tree and spread it on your garden. Failing that, chipping and burning it is the best option. It also pointed out that composting done poorly (anaerobically) can release methane into the atmosphere.

However, Garden Organic told me that burning Christmas trees would mean losing carbon to the atmosphere, which would otherwise have become organic matter that would improve soil structure and fertility. It also told us that if composting is done properly, it shouldn’t give off methane. It’s important that the heap is kept aerobic by turning it and by including an appropriate mixture of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials.

A gourmet treat

A recent festive edition of the BBC TV programme QI (Quite Interesting) suggested that the most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your tree could be to take it to a zoo. Apparently, an elephant can get through five Christmas trees for lunch. And at Dresden zoo, camels, rhino and giraffes munch through them too.

We’re not suggesting you turn up at your local wildlife park with a tree in hand, but if you do, you might want to call ahead first! The important thing is to keep your tree out of landfill. There it will decompose anaerobically, releasing potent greenhouse gases.

Did you put up a real Christmas tree this Christmas? How do you plan to dispose of it?


I’ll be shredding mine this weekend and using it as a mulch for my blueberry plants.

robert smith says:
4 January 2013

Re Steve.
Shredding for blueberry mulch is a super way to get rid of your Christmas tree. I did this for many years and even scrounged trees from my neighbours. Now, however, since we moved to the Southport area, a place with many miles of moving sand dunes, our local council needs the trees to push into the dunes to help stabilise them. So it may be worth while to see what other local, bizarre methods there are to dispose of them.

Barry says:
4 January 2013

Returning it to the garden centre where you bought it from and get a discount voucher to be used in Spring.

I did not know that zoo animals would eat Christmas trees. It is amazing what you can learn via Which? Conversation. 🙂 Some people spray trees to avoid needle drop, so they might not be good for animals.

Ah well. Time to take down the artificial tree for another year.

We’ve cut off the branches and them in the garden waste recycling bin, but the trunk is too thick so going to the recycling centre this afternoon, along with 3 bags of paper/cardboard waste that won’t fit in our paper/plastics/tin recycling bin.

Shredded and the rest on the log pile, great kindling!

Last year, I bought two mini trees from Tesco, about a foot tall, with decorations and battery-operated LED lights, for £10 each. They were perfect for the window sill. After Christmas, I took off the lights and decorations and saved them for this Christmas. I kept watering them throughout the year. They survived and I re-decorated them this Christmas (in their original pots, now about 4 inches taller). Surely this is the most eco-friendly of all?