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Quick Tips for Disposing of those Holiday Decorations

Christmas tree .

The presents have been opened, the last cookie has been eaten, and the holidays are officially behind us. As you pack up your decorations, the next task on your to-do list may be to responsibly dispose of your holiday tree, wreaths, mistletoe, holly and other natural décor items. Depending on where you live, your community may offer a curbside tree recycling service. In other communities, you may need to bring your tree to a designated recycling center. Some municipalities also turn trees into free mulch that will later be available to residents on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Not sure what to do with your tree or living holiday decorations? These tips can help you prepare decorations for responsible disposal and recycling.

Recycle your tree curbside.

Depending on where you live, your municipality may offer curbside tree pick-up and recycling. While exact recycling instructions may differ between municipalities, most require trees to be set out on a specific day and time for pick-up. You will need to remove all decorations from the tree, as well as the tree stand. Depending on your municipality, you may need to cut longer trees in half.

If you are unable to physically remove your tree from your residence, some cities have programs that can help with the heavy lifting. In New York City, for example, services (for a fee) are available that will come to your home and take your tree directly to a designated recycling location.

Take your tree to a local recycling center.

If your municipality does not offer curbside recycling, or if you live in an apartment, on a private street, or at a residence that does not receive curbside service, another option may be to take your tree to a local recycling center. In Sacramento, California, for example, residents who do not receive curbside service can still take trees to the Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station where trees will be turned into mulch for free. Trees must be free from ornaments, tinsel, lights, stands and nails.

Don’t leave broken lights on your tree.

If you don’t plan to reuse your holiday lights next year or these lights have broken, you’ll still need to remove the lights from your tree. One option is to recycle these lights at a local center or specialty retailer. Washington University in St. Louis, for example, runs an annual “Holiday Lights Recycling Drive” for old or unworkable holiday lights. Last year, the program diverted 1,252 pounds of holiday lights from local landfills, helping to recycle the plastic, glass, copper and brass components. Check to see if a similar program is available in your local community.

Recycle (or upcycle) your wreath.

Just like your tree, natural wreaths can be recycled and turned into mulch or compost. Prior to recycling, remove any bows, ribbons, tinsel and other decorations. Next, remove the natural greenery from the florist wire. Look for the end of the florist wire and disassemble this wire by unwinding it around the wreath. Check with your local recycling center to see if they will accept your wreath greenery for mulch. If your greenery is still fresh, another option is to upcycle your wreath. Swap out the holiday bow or decorations for neutral colors and enjoy your wreath all winter long.

Compost or recycle seasonal greenery.

You may also be able to recycle seasonal greenery, like mistletoe and holly, at your local recycling center or through your curbside pick-up program. Some municipalities may require you to leave this seasonal greenery curbside as you would other yard debris, like leaves and branches. Other municipalities may allow you to take this greenery to a tree mulching stations. Remember to remove any plastic, wire, ribbon, metal or paper decorations from the seasonal greenery prior to recycling.

For more information on recycling trees, wreaths and other seasonal greenery, be sure to check with your local municipality for any drop off locations, curbside pick-up dates and additional guidelines.

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