Jennifer Gagnon, Virginia Forest Landowner Education program coordinator, said fresh-cut Christmas trees can be recycled or repurposed into natural products, wildlife habitat or feeding areas to attract wildlife.
Trunks and branches can be used as mulch for gardens or as bedding for animal stalls, Gagnon said. Additionally, recycling programs that chip discarded trees into mulch are growing in popularity.
In Arlington County and Alexandria, Christmas trees are collected curbside for residents with trash and recycling service. The trees are later ground into wood mulch for residents to use in their gardens. Virginia Beach offers the same service.
In other localities—like Chesterfield County—residents can bring trees to one of several waste disposal sites.
“Consumers should check their local sources to find out if their communities will be recycling Christmas trees,” said Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “People can do an Internet search to discover post-holiday recycling events or contact their local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices for information.”
Before recycling trees, remove all ornaments, lights and stands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that leaving strings of popcorn and cranberries will attract wildlife to the trees.
Old Christmas trees also can be used to build brush piles, which provide cover for rabbits and other small animals. Place the brush pile near other thick bushes to encourage animals to use it, the fish and wildlife service recommends. If you have a pond on your property, weight the tree and sink it in deep water. This artificial reef will soon attract crappie and other pan fish.
It’s not just homeowners who recycle Christmas trees. The 1,500 Fraser firs that are used to decorate Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg are recycled as well. The trees are chipped on site, and in the spring they are used for mulch throughout the park. Staff also give whole trees or branches to various animals in the park for recreation or snacking and to improve their habitats.
The National Christmas Tree Association provides a guide to tree recycling atrealchristmastrees.org/dnn/