How and Where to Recycle Real Christmas Trees in San Diego County

Among other benefits over the fake trees, real Christmas trees can be composted or turned into mulch and returned to the earth.

Cut or living Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial trees. Selecting the real option greatly reduces the use of toxic materials and fossil fuels to produce the lifelike plastic replicas. Moreover, the real tree can be returned to the earth as mulch or through composting and there are many options to do so in San Diego County

The County of San Diego and I Love A Clean San Diego encourage residents to recycle their real Christmas trees to minimize the amount of holiday waste sent to the landfill. WasteFreeSD.org has a 2020 listing for curbside and drop-off locations countywide.

According to the EPA, organic materials like Christmas trees, food, and yard clippings 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, and creates a bountiful source of mulch and compost to be reused.

Before a tree is turned into mulch or composted, follow some simple tips to ensure it can be fully recycled.

Christmas Tree Recycling Tips

  • Tinsel is plastic and must be completely removed from trees.
  • Make sure to remove all ornaments, garland, lights, nails, tree bags, and tree stands (metal or plastic) before recycling.
  • For curbside pickup only, trees taller than four feet should be cut in half. It is recommended that pieces be under four feet.
  • Most likely, flocked (fake snow) trees are not accepted for composting. Check with your local waste hauler before dropping flocked trees for curbside pickup or taking it to a drop-off site.
  • Reuse or donate artificial trees that are in good condition.
  • Don’t let trees sit around too long after the holidays. They can dry out and become fire hazards.

How to Compost Your Christmas Tree

Many local waste haulers offer curbside pick-up of Christmas trees and wreaths, in addition to dozens of community drop-off sites. Collected Christmas trees are mulched or composted, which is then used to improve soil health at public parks, local farms, and home landscapes and gardens.

Pick-up and Drop-off Locations

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-cycling’ options into one list.

Most waste haulers pick up Christmas trees during normal curbside collection days for a few weeks following the holiday. In addition to curbside pick-up, Christmas tree drop-off sites are located in the following communities:

Bonsall
Carlsbad
Coronado
Del Mar
El Cajon
Escondido
Imperial Beach
La Mesa
Lemon Grove
National City
Oceanside
Ramona
San Marcos
Solana Beach
Valley Center
Vista

For additional holiday recycling information, check out the County of San Diego’s “Don’t Take a Holiday From Recycling Flyer.”

I Love A Clean San Diego operates WasteFreeSD.org, the county’s recycling and household waste database and call center. This resource refers thousands of residents to the proper facilities to recycle or dispose of hundreds of different items. From Christmas trees to food donations and appliances to cooking oil, the goal is to make waste diversion quick and convenient.

About I Love A Clean San Diego

Founded in 1954, I Love A Clean San Diego is an environmental nonprofit supporting residents and businesses of San Diego County through youth and adult education, and local action through impactful volunteer events and workshops. As San Diego’s most influential advocate for sustainability, I Love A Clean San Diego’s programs are an environmental catalyst, awakening passion and inspiring action to empower everyone to be leaders in conservation and waste-free living. Our community is passion in action to maintain and improve the health of the home we love. For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit CleanSD.org or call (619) 291-0103. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.