The lights come down, the decorations come off the tree and the Christmas festivity gets put away until the final months of 2019. Artificial Christmas trees are packed up and put away until next Christmas, but how can you dispose of real Christmas trees in the most environmentally friendly way possible?
Natural Christmas trees are absolutely the most environmentally friendly option, but depending on how you dispose of your natural Christmas trees depends on the environmental impact and the amount of greenhouse gas emitted. Sending your tree to landfill is the worst way to dispose of it. As the tree decomposes it produces methane; a greenhouse gas around 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This methane produced is the equivalent of around 16kg of CO2e being released into the atmosphere. Multiply that by the number of Christmas trees being thrown out all over the country and it becomes an estimated 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases released. Even more when you consider countries throwing out trees all over the world.
The UK consumes around 8 million natural Christmas trees every year, and around 7 million of those end up in landfill. The remaining one million tend to be used as compost. There are many more environmentally-friendly ways to better reuse or recycle natural Christmas trees and substantially reduce the environmental impact we are having.
So how can you best recycle your Christmas tree?
Burning Christmas trees, replanting or chipping it to spread it on a garden are all ways to substantially reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by around 80% at approximately 3.5kg of CO2e. The tree is still being disposed of but it only releases the amount of carbon that was stored in it whilst growing.
If you don’t want to recycle it at home, there are many household recycling centres across the country that will take your Christmas tree for free to be recycled and composted. If you’re unsure about what your council offers, go to their website before the recycling services end!
All this talk of the environmental impact of natural Christmas trees shouldn’t discourage you from buying natural in the future; natural trees are still much more environmentally friendly than their artificial counterparts as long as they’re disposed of in the best way possible.
Artificial trees have a carbon footprint that is equivalent to 40kg of CO2e emissions. A large portion of this comes from the oil produced to create the plastic tree with the rest coming from its manufacture and transportation from countries like China. In order for artificial options to compete with natural trees, they need to be reused for more than 10 years.
As it’s over a week into the start of 2019, there’s a good chance you’ve already disposed of your tree in one way or another. But if you haven’t and its still at home, consider how you get rid of it. It’s only a small change but it can have a big difference!