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How and Where to Recycle Real Christmas Trees in San Diego County


Christmas Tree Recycling Guide: How and Where to Recycle Real Christmas Trees in San Diego County

Among other benefits over fake trees, real Christmas trees can be composted or turned into mulch and returned to the earth. Trees sprayed with fake snow (flocked) trees cannot be composted.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY (Dec. 15, 2021) – Cut or living Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly than plastic trees. Selecting the real deal reduces the use of toxic materials and fossil fuels to produce their lifelike counterparts. Moreover, real trees can be returned to the earth as mulch or through composting, which returns valuable nutrients to the earth, reduces landfill space and greenhouse gas emissions.

For this year’s Christmas tree collection, the County of San Diego and I Love A Clean San Diego make it easy for residents to recycle their real Christmas trees. The countywide Christmas Tree Recycling Guide at, has a 2021 listing for curbside and drop-off locations in the region.

According to the EPA, organic materials like Christmas trees, food, and yard clippings are the number one material sent to landfills, composing two-thirds of the solid waste stream. In California, state law (SB 1383) is here to change that. It will require the recycling of Christmas trees as well as other organic waste-food scraps, food-soiled paper, yard trimmings and non-hazardous wood waste (i.e. lumber, pallets, etc.). To learn more, contact your local city or county and/or waste and recycling hauler about organic waste recycling in your area.

Before a tree is turned into mulch or composted, follow some simple tips to ensure they can be fully recycled.

Christmas Tree Recycling Tips

  • Do not flock or buy flocked trees. Fake snow (flock) contains chemicals that interfere with the composting process
  • If you choose to use tinsel it must be completely removed (and placed in the trash) from your tree before it can be recycled. Best option, don’t buy tinsel. It is a wasteful single-use plastic.
  • Make sure to remove all ornaments, garland, lights, nails, tree bags, and tree stands (metal or plastic) before recycling.
  • For areas where curbside tree recycling is available, trees taller than four feet should be cut in half. It is recommended that pieces be under four feet.
  • Reuse or donate artificial trees that are in good condition. Purchasing new plastic trees create more waste and greenhouse gasses.
  • Don’t let real trees sit around too long after the holidays. They can dry out and become fire hazards.
  • Organic wreaths and similar decorations can be recycled with trees.

About I Love A Clean San Diego

Founded in 1954, I Love A Clean San Diego is an environmental nonprofit supporting residents and businesses of San Diego County through youth and adult education, and local action through impactful volunteer events and workshops. As San Diego’s most influential advocate for sustainability, I Love A Clean San Diego’s programs are an environmental catalyst, awakening passion and inspiring action to empower everyone to be leaders in conservation and waste-free living. Our community is passion in action to maintain and improve the health of the home we love. For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit or call (619) 291-0103. Connect with us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.