How to Recycle Your Holiday Tree

Our live, cut Christmas trees give us delight this time of year, but when the holidays are over, the trees become organic waste. Considering that the U.S. EPA estimates around 20 percent of our municipal solid waste is already organic, it’s worth taking the time to properly dispose of your tree. Remember, it is only organic if it is stripped down to its original form, which means removing all the tinsel, ornaments, and lights. Unfortunately, the “flocked” trees that are spray-painted to give them a seasonal feel are pretty much guaranteed to be landfilled, so keep that in mind while you are dreaming of a white Christmas!

Since 1988, Albemarle County’s Tree Recycling Program has been helping our residents discard their trees and reduce the impact on landfills. The program collects 2,300 Christmas trees each year on average and turns them into mulch, which is free for pickup starting in February. The Albemarle County Parks and Recreation Department offers seven drop-off sites, open this year from December 26 through January 18:

  • McIntire Recycling Center – 611 McIntire Rd. Charlottesville, VA 22902
  • Claudius Crozet Park – 1075 Claudius Crozet Park, Crozet, VA 22932
  • Greenwood Community Center – 865 Greenwood Rd. Crozet, VA 22932
  • Chris Greene Lake Park – 4460 Chris Greene Lake Rd. Charlottesville, VA 22911
  • Darden Towe Park – 1445 Darden Towe Park, Charlottesville, VA 22911
  • Scottsville Community Center – 250 Page St. Scottsville, VA 24590
  • Walnut Creek Park – 4250 Walnut Creek Park North Garden, VA 22959

The county warns that the McIntire Recycling Center can become congested and recommends Darden Towe Park as an alternative. Check here for other “treecycling” sites near you.

If you live in the country or have space in your yard, recycle your tree by building a brush pile that provides wildlife habitat with shelter and nesting places. Good locations for a brush pile include at woods edge, field borders, fence corners or open areas near water.  The brush pile eventually decomposes, enriching the soil and providing a home for beneficial microorganisms for many years.