A real Christmas tree can be an eco-friendly alternative to artificial equivalents, but only if you remember to recycle it properly. Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, shares five environmentally friendly ways to dispose of your spruce this new year.
With their gorgeous natural foliage and beautiful festive scent, a real Christmas tree can be a source of pride and joy during December. But come January, all too often those trees can end up in a landfill, or worse, left lying around in the gutter, when they could be easily recycled. In fact, British households throw away 250 tonnes worth of Christmas trees every year, which means even more landfill waste and increased pollution from all the additional journeys made by overloaded rubbish trucks.
If you love to have a real tree in your home at Christmas time, but you’re not sure how to recycle it, then just read on to learn five eco-friendly ways you can dispose of your spruce in the new year.
Compost your tree
The simplest way to recycle your tree is also one the most environmentally friendly methods. Real trees are completely biodegradable, so if you have a garden and you like to make your own compost, recycling your old spruce couldn’t be easier. To compost your tree, all you need to do is shred it or chop it into small pieces, before adding to your compost heap.
Needles are also great for mulch, as they won’t get mouldy and they decompose slowly. Pine needle mulch is especially effective when used around acid-loving flowers, like camellias or rhododendrons. Just chop off the branches and shake off the needles free.
Find your local tree recycling centre
If you don’t have a compost heap, then let your council do the hard work for you. Almost all local councils now open recycling centres after the festive season, and some councils even offer a collection service. You can find out everything you need to know on your local authority’s website.
When you donate your tree to a recycling centre, the council will shred it and mulch it, and may even use the resulting compost on flower beds and parkland in the local area. So, by recycling your tree through a centre, you could be helping contribute to a greener neighbourhood.
Create wildlife friendly garden features
Your tree can used to make natural habitats for certain garden wildlife and insects. The stump can become a great bird-feeder: simply turn the stump over every couple of days so that birds can feast on the worms and insects beneath. The longer sticks from your tree branches can also be used to make handy supports for tall flowers and vegetables.
Your former spruce can be used to help your local bee population, too. Drilling a few deep holes in a log from your tree’s base will give solitary bees a place to hide out during bad weather, and will encourage pollinators into your garden. Bees won’t enter holes with rough, splintered wood, so make sure to thoroughly sand the entrance to each hole. Remember that bees favour dry, warm weather, so if possible, put your bee hotel in a sheltered, sun-facing spot.
Use the trunk to make homeware and decorations
The wooden trunk of your tree can be used to make all sorts of decorations and ornaments. The pinewood base of your spruce can be used to make wooden drinks coasters: simply slice the trunk into slim discs using a hacksaw or bandsaw, leaving the bark around the edges for a rustic effect. Sand the surfaces to make them smooth and free of splinters, and be sure to stain and seal the finished coasters to prevent the sap from leaking.
If the trunk of your tree is too narrow to make coasters, then you could make some wooden tree ornaments to use next Christmas instead. Chop, sand and seal the decorations using the method described above, then drill a small hole in the top of each disc, so you can hang it on your tree with some ribbon. How you decorate your ornaments is up to you: try painting on some festive designs, or adding glitter, sequins and jewels.
Use your tree as firewood
If you have an open fire or log burner, then pinewood can be used as fuel. Firewood that’s been recycled from your Christmas tree will have a beautiful, pine-scented aroma as it burns, but remember that it will take a few months for the wood to dry out properly before it can be used. This process is called seasoning, and involves storing your wood in a dry, cool place.
As you can see, there are loads of eco-friendly ways to recycle your Christmas tree this new year. Whether it’s using your tree in your garden, upcycling it into ornaments, or taking it to your local recycling centre, it’s easy to find a method that will suit you.