23 Dec 2022

How do you ditch a Christmas tree?

7:40 pm on 23 December 2022
Christmas tree. (File image)

Composting your real Christmas tree is a great option once the festive season is over. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Preparing for Christmas is one thing, but once the festivities wrap up, figuring out what to do with that parched pine tree in your lounge is a chore many people are happy to postpone.

Every year, thousands of trees are disposed of unlawfully, in places such as beaches, parks and reserves, clogging waterways and releasing methane into the atmosphere.

Auckland Council waste solutions manager Parul Sood said trees should not go to landfill or be put into recycling bins.

Christmas trees were valuable in terms of organic material so they should be composted rather than sending them to landfill, she said.

"They should not be dumped in the kerb side, on local parks or in the waterway. There are places they can be taken, but definitely not in your rubbish bin."

Sood said burning your old tree was also not recommended.

"Just thinking about all the emissions that would create, it's just not good for the environment, not legal in some cases and not even safe."

In the past four years, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) has responded to seven incidents related to tree disposal.

The organisation's manager community education, Adrian Nacey, said setting trees on fire during summer could be fatal.

The biggest risk would be the fire getting out of control because of the wind, Nacey said.

"Around the country in some places you have a restricted fire season, so if you live in an area with a restricted fire season you would need a permit.

"And if you are in an area with a prohibited fire season you cannot burn your tree at all."

Anyone dumping their trees on native reserves could also see themselves hit with a heavy fine, the Department of Conservation said.

In a statement, it said dumping Christmas trees, or any other green waste, posed a risk to native places and species.

People might dump their garden waste along with Christmas trees, it said

"Many weeds grow from small fragments and are easily spread from dumped piles. Piles of green waste can also smother regenerating native plants."

DOC said the dumping of rubbish, which included garden waste and Christmas trees, on public conservation land was illegal and individuals could face a hefty fine.

So, what is the best thing to do with your beloved tree after Christmas?

Sood said if people were able, they should chop their tree up and compost it in their own backyard.

If that was not an option, there were providers who could do it for you, she said.

"When you are buying the tree, it's worthwhile checking with that tree supplier if they would take it back.

"Because you will find that some of them do and will do the right thing with them."

People who had a garden bag, could also chop the tree up and put it in their green waste bag to be collected, she said.

Planting the tree was another option, Sood said.

"We suggest to people to get native trees for Christmas and, if they can, plant them in their own backyard."

If people did not have the space, they could look for organisations to donate the tree to, she said.

For the past 10 years, Wellington City Council's Southern Landfill Recycle Centre has offered a free service to transform real Christmas trees into organic compost.

The trees are processed in about 100 days and turned into approximately 1000 40-litre bags of organic-certified compost.

Manager Darren Hoskins said the best solution was to bring nature back to nature.

"If the vegetation goes into the landfill, that creates greenhouse gas, including methane and carbon oxide.

"So, it's good to keep that out if we can, and composting is the best solution."

Hoskins said to reduce wastage, people should consider using a potted pine or Pohutukawa tree, which should get to six feet tall in three years and could be planted the following winter.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs