Skip to content

Recycle Christmas Trees After the Holidays With

Christmas Tree Composting

Living and Fresh-Cut Christmas Trees Are Better for the Environment: Compost Them After the Holidays to Avoid Fire Hazard and Reduce Waste

I Love A Clean San Diego and show County residents how and where to recycle their trees.

A living or fresh-cut Christmas tree is one of the best options in terms of the environment.  Living trees can be planted after the holidays and can even be rented and returned to continue growing.  If you choose a fresh-cut tree, try and support tree farms within your local area.  After the holidays, remember to compost the tree and help close the loop, returning the tree to the earth as mulch. This New York Times Article provides additional commentary. In addition, recycling a tree soon after the holidays also prevents the fire danger associated with a dry tree.

Prevent Fire Danger

After the holidays, County of San Diego residents are encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees as soon as possible to reduce fire danger and minimize the amount of holiday waste sent to the landfill. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house, garage, or placed against any structure.

“The longer you keep a Christmas tree in your home, the more of a fire hazard it becomes,” said Lorraine Carli, Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association.

The San Diego County Fire Authority also advises residents not put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

How to Compost Your Tree

Beyond the fire danger dried-out trees pose, they can also contribute to the increase in waste sent to landfills during the holiday season. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic materials like Christmas trees, food, and green waste are the number one material sent to landfills, composing two-thirds of the solid waste stream.  Composting these materials preserves space in local landfills, reduces greenhouse gas generation, creates beneficial compost and mulch and removes a potential fire hazard from your property.

Many local waste haulers offer curbside pick-up of Christmas trees and wreaths, in addition to dozens of community drop-off sites. The Christmas trees are ground into mulch, which is then used to improve soil health at public parks, local farms, as well as home and garden landscapes.

Find Pick-up, Drop-off Locations

The partnership between I Love A Clean San Diego and the County of San Diego takes the hassle out of recycling your holiday tree by gathering all your tree-cycling’ options into one list. Most waste haulers pick up Christmas trees in their green waste bins during normal curbside collection days for a few weeks following the holiday. Visit or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784) for more information or to find a local company that offers pick-up. In addition to curbside pick-up, Christmas tree drop-off sites are located in the following communities:

Bonsall | Carlsbad | Coronado | Del Mar | El Cajon | Escondido | Imperial Beach | La Mesa | Lemon Grove | National City | Oceanside | Ramona | San Diego | San Marcos | Solana Beach | Valley Center | Vista

A complete list of tree recycling locations is also available at or by calling 1-877-R-1-EARTH.

Christmas Tree-cycling Tips

Before recycling your Christmas tree, review these tips to ensure your tree is recycled properly:

  • For curbside recycling, trees taller than four feet should be cut in half. Most waste haulers will not accept tree pieces larger than four feet.
    • Trees do not need to be cut if recycled at an approved drop-off location.
  • Remove any tinsel, ornaments, garland, lights, nails, tree bags, and tree stands (metal or plastic) before recycling.
  • Don’t Flock trees or check with your local hauler to see if they accept flocked trees (fake snow).
  • Reuse or donate artificial trees that are in good condition.

Avoid Plastic Trees

Artificial Christmas trees are made of non-recyclable plastic and other materials that do not biodegrade.   Greenhouse gas emissions from their production, packing and shipping generates more waste and exceeds that of the energy required to grow and/or transport a tree from a tree farm.  Whenever possible, shop local for a live or fresh-cut tree and avoid the purchase of a new artificial Christmas trees. If you already own an artificial tree, it’s recommended to use the tree for as long as possible and then donate any trees in good condition to avoid sending them to the landfill.

I Love A Clean San Diego operates San Diego County’s official recycling and household waste database, From Christmas trees to food donations and appliances to cooking oil, I Love A Clean San Diego makes waste diversion quick and convenient through this helpful database. San Diego County residents are encouraged to visit or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH to learn how to recycle Christmas trees as well as hundreds of other items.