The festivities are over, the decorations are down, and it's back to work after New Year - but you still need to figure out what to do with the somewhat depressed-looking Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. The good news is that getting rid of a real tree in a responsible manner doesn't have to be painful.
In fact, disposing of your cut Christmas tree has never been easier.
Real Christmas trees have never been easier to get rid of. Our guide to how to dispose of Christmas tree waste tells you how.
Preparing your tree for disposal
Taking the tree down after Christmas can be a messy job. Even if you're meticulous about packing away lights and decorations, it's likely you'll have some clearing up to do from the tree itself.
From removing the decorations to preventing a trail of needles from following your tree outside, we have some tips for preparing your tree for recycling or repurposing.
No matter what disposal method you choose, the tree must be bare. Trees with tinsel and baubles still hanging off them can't be recycled or composted and can be dangerous to wildlife if you plan to reuse the tree. Ensure all decorations, including tree stands, pots and toppers, are removed before disposal otherwise your tree is likely to end up in a landfill, despite your best intentions.
The last thing you want is to spill water all over the floor when you move your tree. Obviously, you've followed our advice and kept the Christmas tree well hydrated with regular water top-ups over the festive period. But now you need to move it, you kind of wish you hadn't been quite so thorough.
Use a cup or jug to remove as much water as possible, then wrap an old towel in and around the tree stand to soak up the rest. Doing this will minimise the amount of water that needs mopping up when you're finished.
By the time you come to recycle your Christmas tree, the needles are likely to be quite fragile and more prone to dropping. To avoid filling the hoover bag and still finding pine needles in nooks and crannies for months, spread a large sheet on the floor. Lay the tree horizontally on the sheet, then roll it up. Doing this will help keep the needles at bay until you get the tree outside. You can keep the sheet with your decorations to use next year and the year after that.
Lie the tree on its side with the standstill attached. Trying to remove the stand with the tree upright will shake off many more needles than doing it horizontally.
Alternatively, you can use a large bin bag. Place the bag over the top of the tree and tie it around the base of the trunk. This will keep all the needles contained. Be sure to remove the bag outside before the tree goes off to be recycled.
Prepare unwanted trees for disposal without making a mess by wrapping them in a sheet or bag before taking them out the house.
Ways to dispose of a real Christmas tree
Some disposal methods are simple, while others might take more effort. Choose the one that works best for you, and you'll have the corner of your living room back before you know it.
Recycle your tree
Recycling your Christmas tree is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get rid of it. From collection points to curbside organic collection, your local authority is likely to offer some way to recycle Christmas trees. Here's how to use them:
Most local councils will provide a selection of drop-off points for real trees. These are often recycling centres but can include parks, car parks and community gardens during specific dates. Your Christmas tree will be taken from the drop-off point to be recycled. Check your local council website for details on where to drop off unwanted Christmas trees.
If you don't fancy clusters of needles shedding all over your car, you can always wait for your Christmas tree to be collected. Many local authorities offer free collection in early January. This could take the form of a truck doing the rounds for kerbside collection, which is ideal. Simply drag your tree out on the appointed date (making sure it doesn't cause an obstruction, of course) and let the council do the rest.
Alternatively, your tree might get uplifted with the regular garden waste collection. Unless your tree is particularly small, this does involve getting out the saw. You'll need to cut the tree into pieces to fit it into the garden waste bin, ensuring the lid can close. Bear in mind that your normal collection day may have been moved to accommodate bank holidays over Christmas and New Year.
Take your tree to your local reuse and recycling centre or drop off points or dispose of it using your regular garden waste collection.
Compost your tree
Composting is extremely eco-friendly, but it does take a fair amount of time and effort to get rid of a Christmas tree in this way. When it comes to composting, small is best. So lop off the branches, strip the tree and cut it into pieces as tiny as you can manage. Wood can take a long time to start decomposing. Shredding the tree as much as possible will make the process somewhat quicker.
Reuse your tree
Unlike pot-grown trees, freshly cut Christmas trees can't be planted in the garden or kept and used again next year. However, they can be reused and repurposed in other ways.
Christmas trees make excellent bird feeders and it doesn't take much effort to transform your tree into a welcome food bank for our feathery friends. Secure the old tree to a fence in the corner of the garden and hang nuts, fat balls, berries and fruit from the branches. Then sit back and watch the birds flock into your garden. Branches will also provide essential shelter for birds and small mammals during a harsh winter.
After the needles have been stripped or fallen off, the bare Christmas tree makes an excellent stake or frame for garden plants. Thin the branches out if required, then watch as your flowers and beans twist and weave around the frame to create a unique effect that is completely organic.
Wood slice crafts are having a moment. Whether it's coasters, tea light holders or even decorations for next year's Christmas tree, wood slices are unbelievably popular right now. Let your real tree dry out before sawing the trunk and larger branches into slices. These can then be treated before you let your imagination run wild, upcycling the tree into all sorts of new and wonderful items.
Rather than dragging your tree to the recycling centre, why not reuse it by turning it into something else?
If you're lucky enough to have an open hearth fireplace, you have the option to burn the branches and trunk once you've finished with your Christmas tree. While we'd advise caution when burning an old tree, it is a viable way to dispose of it. Chop the tree into firewood and leave it in a cool place to completely dry out before use. Only use one or two Christmas tree logs at a time, and make sure all needles have been safely removed first.
Donate it to a hungry goat
Yes, you read that correctly! Some local and community farms will take donations of old Christmas trees for their animals to munch on. Goats in particular love to demolish trees, but alpacas, donkeys, cows and hens will also enjoy a nibble. Donated trees can also be used to create habitats for small mammals. Be sure to check with your local farm before turning up - some will even collect your tree for a small fee.
How are Christmas trees recycled?
If your tree isn't being eaten by a herd of goats, you might wonder how it will be recycled and what happens to Christmas trees after the festive period.
Trees dropped off at recycling centres or picked up by a garden waste collection service will usually be shredded and left for a while to decompose. The chips will then be used as mulch or compost to spruce up local parks and gardens.
Only real Christmas trees can get recycled in this way. Artificial trees must get disposed of separately.
Christmas tree recycling points run by the local council are the quickest and easiest way to dispose of your tree.
What not to do with your old Christmas tree
Unless specific arrangements are in place for pick up or drop off, throwing a Christmas tree out in a public space is classed as illegal dumping. As well as being an eye sore and detrimental to local wildlife and property owners, fly-tipping will result in you receiving a hefty fine. Be sure to dispose of your Christmas tree responsibly and only leave trees at designated sites.
Everyone knows to carefully turn off fairy lights to prevent trees from setting alight in the run-up to Christmas. However, London Fire Brigade actually attends double the number of Christmas tree-related fires in January as it does in December. This is largely due to people disposing of their Christmas trees by burning them in the garden.
Even if your bonfire stays under control, burning green waste like trees produces a lot of smoke, which can adversely affect your neighbours, so it's best to find another way to get rid of your Christmas tree.
Send it to a landfill
Around 6 million real Christmas trees are discarded annually in the UK. That equates to around 9,000 tonnes of waste. Imagine if all of that ended up in a landfill!
The Carbon Trust states the carbon footprint of a 6ft cut tree sent to a landfill is 16kg CO2e. This number can be reduced by up to 80% when the tree is disposed of responsibly. That's a huge benefit, even before we consider the £22 million per year it would cost the taxpayer to send every discarded real Christmas tree to a landfill site.
Placing your used tree in the general waste bin takes no less effort than fitting it into the bin allocated for garden waste. Likewise, it's just as easy to take your tree to a recycling centre as to a dumping ground.
Recycling services make it easy to get rid of Christmas trees so you don't need to fly tip, burn or bin them.
Responsible tree disposal
Whether you decide to recycle or repurpose your tree, the important thing is that you dispose of it in a responsible manner. There's no point in choosing a real tree over an artificial one for environmental reasons if you're just going to dump it when the festivities are over.
There are plenty of responsible ways to get rid of Christmas trees, and the vast majority take very little time and effort.
So, now you know what to do with the dead Christmas tree taking up space in the living room, you can concentrate on more important matters, such as where you hid that stash of leftover Christmas chocolate from the kids!