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5 Eco-friendly ways to dispose of your Christmas tree sustainably

Throwing out christmas tree
Georgia Brown
Georgia BrownSenior Lifestyle & Fashion Writer
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As the festive season draws to a close, the reality of post-Christmas waste is not so jolly. An estimated 7 million people purchased real Christmas trees to decorate their homes in the UK this year, of which around 250 million tonnes will be sent to landfill. 

If you're thinking that surely the carbon footprint of a real pine tree can't be that bad if it goes to landfill, you may be surprised to learn that a decomposing tree emits methane gas, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

According to the Carbon Trust, the carbon footprint of a 6ft real Christmas tree is the equivalent of 16 kg of CO2 if it ends up in landfill. That’s 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from the 7 million trees.

Luckily, there are several ways to recycle, repurpose and responsibly dispose of your real Christmas tree that won't have anywhere near as great an impact on the environment. 

So what is the alternative? 

Look into local recycling options

A Christmas tree thrown out with the trash after the Christmas season comes to an end in the UK.© Joel Sharpe
250 million tonnes of Christmas trees end up in landfill

My neighbour's sad, wilted and crispy Christmas tree from last year is still strewn across their front garden, having never been collected by the local waste disposal. Instead of retiring your tree to a pine needle graveyard, be sure to check what recycling options are in your area so that your festive Fir doesn't go to complete waste. 

This year, I opted for a beautiful Normand Spruce from Pines and Needles, the company that provides Christmas trees to the royal households. Why? Because they offer a collection service for London postcodes after the festive season, which sees the trees they collect turned into animal bedding at London Zoo, or chipped and turned into biofuel. 

Turn it into mulch and chips

Pine needle mulch is great for growing new saplings© Annie Otzen
Pine needle mulch is great for growing new saplings

Garden Buildings Direct shared a handy tip for those with access to a wood chipper. They recommend turning your old tree into mulch and wood chips to keep the soil in your flower beds warm as an eco-friendly alternative to getting rid of the tree altogether. 

Turn your Christmas tree into compost

Man hold out his hands with gardening gloves holding out hand fulls of compost from his compost bin.© Annie Otzen
Consider composting your Christmas tree

If a wood chipper is not something you have, chopping off the branches and sawing the trunk to make compost is another simple way to repurpose your tree - providing healthy soil for plants to grow in the new year. 

Replant your tree

Smaller trees can be kept to grow in pots, while larger trees can be planted in the garden© Getty
Smaller trees can be kept to grow in pots, while larger trees can be planted in the garden

If your real Christmas tree has roots, consider re-planting it in your garden, or donating it to someone who does have a garden. Fill a large outdoor plant pot with multi-purpose soil and make a little well in the middle. Pop the roots of your tree into the well. Cover with a few inches of soil.

Consider renting your Christmas tree next year

Potted Christmas trees stand for sale at the Werderaner Tannenhof nursery during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on November 24, 2020 in Werder, Germany. © Sean Gallup
Potted Christmas trees can be reused year after year

Christmas trees can take more than a decade to grow to the 6ft beauty we use to dress our living rooms over the festive season. When you consider they often only stay up for three or four weeks in our homes, it seems a shame to cut down a tree solely for this purpose. 

London Christmas Tree Rental is one of many companies offering a rental service. Rent a potted tree, return it, and receive the same one year after year.

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