The Coast News Group
There are multiple options to consider when discarding a Christmas tree following the holiday season. These include composting and taking advantage of curbside pickup. File photo

How and where to recycle Christmas trees

REGION — A living or fresh-cut Christmas tree is one of the best options in terms of the environment, according to I Love A Clean San Diego. Living trees can be planted after the holidays and can even be rented and returned to continue growing. If you choose a fresh-cut tree, try and support tree farms within your local area. After the holidays, remember to compost the tree and help close the loop, returning the tree to the earth as mulch. In addition, composting a tree soon after the holidays also prevents the fire danger associated with a dry tree.

Prevent fire danger. After the holidays, county of San Diego residents are encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees as soon as possible to reduce fire danger and minimize the amount of holiday waste sent to the landfill. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house, garage, or placed against any structure. The San Diego County Fire Authority also advises residents not put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Compost your tree. Beyond the fire danger dried-out trees pose, they can also contribute to the increase in waste sent to landfills during the holiday season. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic materials like Christmas trees, food, and green waste are the number one material sent to landfills, composing two-thirds of the solid waste stream. Composting these materials preserves space in local landfills, reduces greenhouse gas generation, creates beneficial compost and mulch and removes a potential fire hazard from your property.

Many local waste haulers offer curbside pick-up of Christmas trees and wreaths, in addition to dozens of community drop-off sites. The Christmas trees are ground into mulch, which is then used to improve soil health at public parks, local farms, as well as home and garden landscapes.

The partnership between I Love A Clean San Diego and the county of San Diego takes the hassle out of recycling your holiday tree by gathering all your tree-recycling options into one list. Most waste haulers pick up Christmas trees in their green waste bins during normal curbside collection days for a few weeks following the holiday. Visit or call (877) 713-2784, for more information or to find a local company that offers pick-up. In addition to curbside pick-up, Christmas tree drop-off sites are located in Carlsbad, Del Mar, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Solana Beach and Vista. A complete list of tree recycling locations is also available at

Christmas “tree-cycling” tips include:

  • For curbside recycling, trees taller than four feet should be cut in half. Most waste haulers will not accept tree pieces larger than four feet.
  • Trees do not need to be cut if recycled at an approved drop-off location.
  • Remove any tinsel, ornaments, garland, lights, nails, tree bags, and tree stands (metal or plastic) before recycling.
  • Check with your local hauler to see if they accept flocked trees (fake snow). Reuse or donate artificial trees that are in good condition.

I Love A Clean San Diego operates San Diego County’s official recycling and household waste database, From Christmas trees to food donations and appliances to cooking oil, I Love A Clean San Diego makes waste diversion quick and convenient through this helpful database.