Owners of the 25 million-plus real Christmas trees purchased across the U.S. this year, no longer serving their short-lived holiday purpose, once again face an annual question: How do I get rid of this old tree?
In Minnesota, there are a lot of options to make sure a Christmas tree gets disposed of in a responsible manner, but the precise answer depends on where you live. Some cities offer pick-up while others require you to drop off your de-tinseled tree.
Below, we've rounded up some disposal options for Twin Cities residents.
But first, a few universal rules:
- No decorations: Get all ornaments, lights, plastic wrap, tinsel and other decorative items off the tree.
- Avoid the compost pile: It might sound counter-intuitive, but putting the old tree out in the woods or into your compost pile can allow damaging, invasive pests to flourish. That includes elongated hemlock scale, boxwood blight, Oriental bittersweet, gypsy moth, brown marmorated stink bug, spotted lantern fly, and Japanese maple scale, the Department of Agriculture says.
- Wreaths and decorative greens usually go to the trash: These generally can't be repurposed the same way a real Christmas tree can, though some sites will take them.
- Real trees only: None of the options below apply to artificial trees. The most responsible option there is to donate or sell those items if they're in decent condition.
Here are your options for disposing of a real Christmas tree in the Twin Cities.
Real trees can be placed out next to your garbage cart. If they're taller than 6 feet they have to be cut in half. The city says trees are often sprayed with chemicals that mean they can't be composted, so the trees end up "burned for energy."
Old Christmas trees can be set on their side next to your garbage cart for pick-up from Jan. 2-15 each year — but only one tree per property (or per unit at a multi-family property). Also, trees over 6 feet or weighing more than 20 pounds may need to be disposed of as a "bulky" item.
Drop-off sites in Coon Rapids (Bunker Hills) and Lino Lakes (Rice Creek Chain of Lakes) will accept old Christmas trees for composting for free. For pick-up, you'll have to ask your garbage hauler.
"Please, DO NOT throw your Real Christmas Tree in the trash!" the county says. The Carver County Environmental Center for recycling will take them from Dec. 29-Jan. 29, with drop-off free for county residents. Boy Scout Troop 337 also organizes Christmas tree pick-ups (but you have to get in before the deadline), while the cities of Cologne, Mayer and New Germany and Norwood Young America have some city-specific options. Some garbage or recycling haulers may offer free pick-up, while others might require a fee, so check with them.
The county doesn't have a Christmas tree-specific page, but West St. Paul says many garbage haulers offer pick-up in the weeks after Christmas. There is also a list of drop-off yard waste sites in the area, though you'll need to check on fees.
The county suggests contacting your garbage or recycling service to ask about options. It provides a list of phone numbers for city recycling coordinators here. There is also a link to places that will accept old holiday lights for recycling.
There are four yard-waste sites that will allow Christmas trees to be dropped off for free: Arden Hills, Frank and Sims, Midway and White Bear Township. The county also suggests contacting your trash hauler for possible pick-up options. Whatever you choose, act quickly to prevent invasive species from spreading, the county adds.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community will accept Christmas trees at its Organics Recycling Facility for drop-off from Dec. 27-Jan. 28. It's open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., though will be closed on New Year's Eve and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In Shakopee, new trash hauler Dick's Sanitation will recycle a tree for $20 a pop, but you have to schedule it before your collection date the weeks of Jan. 2 or Jan. 9.
The county touts four drop-off locations for old Christmas trees: In Cottage Grove, Forest Lake, Oakdale, and Hugo. Click here for limitations, fees (two sites are free, one is a couple bucks or a donation, the other is $3) and hours. Private waste haulers might also do pick-up, but you'll have to check with them.