There's definitely a right way to get rid of artificial trees.
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A reader recently came to us with a puzzling query: "Our artificial tree has seen better days. Can we recycle it?" asked Joanne Solomon of Athens, N.Y. The benefit of an artificial tannenbaum is that it lasts for many, many holidays and is a mess-free alternative to a classic pine or fir. But as the years go by, there's bound to come a time where you simply have to let your artificial tree go.

What's the right way to do just that? Unlike the real versions, there's a little more that goes into properly disposing of your artificial tree than simply leaving it on the curb—as it turns out, recycling isn't always an option, and even when it is, there are other things you can do with your artificial tree, too. Here are some ways you can correctly recycle, donate, or reuse that old artificial Christmas tree.

Illuminated Christmas decorations on green Christmas tree
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

How to Recycle an Artificial Christmas Tree

Whether or not you can recycle an artificial Christmas tree depends on what it's made of and where you live. Many faux trees contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a rigid plastic that some recycling systems can't process.

Look to Your Community's Disposal and Recycling Programs

If your municipality accepts all rigid plastics, you can likely recycle part of it. For example, New York City residents can put out the base and trunk of most versions with their metals, glasses, and cartons, provided they first remove the branches and any lights or tinsel, says Belinda Mager, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Sanitation. Some communities may have services that'll pick up and properly dispose of your artificial tree, so be sure to confirm such programs exist in your area.

Where to Donate an Artificial Christmas Tree

You can also give your faux evergreen new life by donating it, says Jeremy Walters, sustainability ambassador for Republic Services. Many local organizations and businesses are likely to take used artificial trees for their own holiday decorating. Thrift stores, hospitals, libraries, and schools in your area are great places to start.

Give to Charities

Otherwise, check if local churches or charities are excepting used artificial trees, as they may sell them and put that money back into the community.

  • You can donate artificial Christmas trees to Donna's Christmas Trees, a non-profit organization that collects these pieces along with other holiday ornaments and decorations each year. After collecting the items, the team refurbishes them to give to families and facilities in need.
  • The Christmas Project accepts artificial Christmas trees and sends them to families around the world, so long as the trees aren't taller than 9 feet and include all parts of the tree (including the stand). The team prefers that the trees are shipped either in the original box or another quality storage container.

How to Reuse an Artificial Christmas Tree

Artificial trees' materials make them great for repurposing into new projects, so think about the creative opportunities your faux evergreen may provide before you get rid of it.

Make a Wreath

Cut branches off of your artificial Christmas tree to create festive wreaths you can use every holiday season.

  1. Cut sprigs of the artificial greenery and hot glue around an embroidery hoop.
  2. Repeat to cover the front and back of the rings, and adhere smaller pieces to the inside of the hoops as needed.
  3. Loop a length of ribbon or seam binding around each wreath, and hang.

Make a Garland

Using branches from your artificial tree, you can put together a new piece of décor: a woodland garland.

  1. Using twine, tie a bow around the branch.
  2. Attach a nut to bow with hot glue.
  3. Move 4 to 7 inches down twine and add another bow and nut.
  4. Repeat for length of the branch, alternating walnuts, almonds, and acorns. (To secure acorns, hot-glue cap onto acorn, then add a dot of hot glue to stem and tie twine around it.)

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