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Ways to Tree-cycle, a used Christmas tree

While your discarded Christmas tree may look sad and bare without the lights and ornaments lying on the snowbank, it is getting ready for its next tree-cycling act. Christmas trees are 100 per cent biodegradable and there are many ways to give your tree a second life this post-holiday season.

Most municipalities in Ontario have curbside pickups or drop-off depots for your used tree. Each year, the 100,000 Christmas trees collected in Toronto are chipped into 3,700 tonnes of mulch used as compost in city parks. When it comes time to recycling your tree, bring it to the curb, and keep your stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights so they can be reused next year.

In some places like the Royal Botanical Gardens near Hamilton, discarded trees are placed streamside to armour the banks against erosion of waterways and creeks, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington last year picked up more than 3,000 trees which were mulched for local naturalization projects.

If you have the space on your property, a used tree can be placed to provide winter cover and habitats for birds and small animals. The same concept works for fish and aquatic critters when the trees are submerged in ponds or lakes with the owner’s permission.

Crafty people have been known to upcycle small branches into rustic hooks and slice the tree trunk into handy drink coasters. Even the 50-foot white spruce at the Toronto Christmas Market, supplied by Forests Ontario is put to reuse.

“The big tree at the Distillery Historic District is given a second life by turning the tree into mulch, protecting newly planted city trees, and has produced usable timber for Habitat for Humanity’s home building programs,” says Rob Keen, Forests Ontario CEO.

One thing you should not try to do is burn it in your wood stove or fireplace, unless it has dried at least over the summer. The softwood of the Christmas conifer is not a good fuel, until the moisture level is below 20 per cent.

“Artificial trees are not recyclable as they are usually composed of a mix of plastic and metal, which make them difficult to disassemble. Unfortunately, most artificial trees, when they reach end of life, also end up in disposal,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director, Recycling Council of Ontario. “The value of real Christmas trees is that they can maintain value in other ways once the holiday season is over, whether through composting or other uses.”

So, don’t shed a tear for the discarded tree at the curb, since it is just getting ready for its next round of tree-cycling.

For more information on repurposing used Christmas trees visit For waste-free holiday tips, visit