Go Green: Recycle Your Christmas Tree at MulchFest

A chipper makes a Christmas tree into mulch, giving it a second life. MulchFest 2012 is Jan. 7 and 8. Flickr/Flatbush Gardener

It’s that time of year. The holidays are over and with that comes big hopes for the new year and big dreams of working off all the figgy pudding, eggnog and cookies you’ve devoured over the past month. The decorations are going back into boxes and now there’s just one more thing to deal with: the Christmas tree.

In Christmases past, many of us have felt the guilt of trashing our pretty trees (even though by this point they’re wilted and dropping needles everywhere). But we can stop the madness! This year, take advantage of New York City’s MulchFest, or one of the other Metropolitan-area spots that make it easy to recycle your beloved — but let’s face it, faded — Christmas tree.

Remember: Only trees that are completely bare will be accepted. Don’t leave any ornaments, lights, popcorn or tinsel on the tree or it will likely end up in the trash. See below for our list of mulching opportunities.

New York City

MulchFest 2012 is on Jan. 7 and 8 at select locations across the city. If you don’t feel the need to be present for the event, you can drop your tree off beginning Jan. 2.

Above, families bring trees to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for the 2009 MuchFest. Flickr/Flatbush Gardener.

For NYC Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe, MulchFest is a classic New York experience.

“It’s a prototypical New York image. People come with a tree in a shopping cart. It’s very fun to see,” said Benepe, who usually attends MulchFest in Tompkins Square Park. “People come from all over. They come to the park and watch this tree that’s been adorned with lights and in a matter of seconds it’s turned into chips and shreds of needles. There’s a wonderful smell that fills the air.”

Benepe said taking part in MulchFest brings New Yorkers, who are used to living in a concrete jungle, closer to the land.

Last year, 17,000 trees were dropped off for MulchFest and Benepe hopes that number will grow this year.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation also recycles trees. Just leave your tree on the curb anytime between Jan. 3 and 14 and it will be picked up and chipped.


See snippets of last year’s MulchFest in this video. Video courtesy of the  New York Department of Parks and Recreation.


Scarsdale: Residents should leave their Christmas Tree curbside for pick-up on regularly scheduled recycling days during the month of January.

Ardsley: The town will pick up trees left curbside during the second and third weeks of January.

Mount Kisco: Residents should place their trees curbside for removal after the New Year. The town chips the trees for mulch. Any residents wanting to use the mulch should call 914-666-8193, according to the Journal News. Or drop your tree off at Westmoreland Sanctuary, a nonprofit environmental preservation organization.

New Jersey

Newark: The city of Newark sets a schedule for Christmas tree pick-up by ward that will be announced after New Year’s Day. To find out when to place your tree curbside, call 973-733-6685. Residents can also drop their tree off at the Department of Sanitation at 62 Frelinghuysen Ave.

Montclair: There are no drop-off sites in Montclair, but the city will pick up trees curbside. Call the Department of Community Services at 973-783-5600 after the New Year for the tree pick-up schedule.

Lebanon and Clinton: These two towns both hold bonfire Christmas tree burning parties. The annual Lebanon “Burning of the Greens” is on Jan. 6. The fire department picks up trees and burns them in a giant bonfire, which residents have been attending for more than 30 years, according to NJ.com. The town of Clinton also makes a holiday out of burning discarded Christmas trees. This year’s yuletide bonfire is on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m.

New Brunswick: Christmas trees collected curbside will be composted. Residents should place trees curbside on Tuesday nights for collection every Wednesday in January.

Pictured above are bags filled with mulch from last year's MulchFest. The mulch is distributed to NYC gardens, parks and tree pits. Flickr/Flatbush Gardener


Greenwich: The town’s Parks and Recreation Department will be accepting trees at drop-off sites across town from Dec. 26 – Jan. 31. For a list of sites as well as handy information on what happens to the trees, visit the town’s website.

Westport: Local Boy Scout Troop 39 is collecting trees on Jan. 7 for a suggested $15 donation. Visit the troop’s website to sign up for pick-up.

Fairfield: GreenCycle, a year-round tree removal service, offers free Christmas tree recycling for Fairfield residents with a valid beach/solid waste sticker. Everyone else pays the minimum cost, $8.50, with prices going up according to weight. GreenCycle is open Monday –  Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will also be open Jan. 7 and 14 for Christmas tree recycling.

Many towns do curbside recycling or have drop off locations. Call your local city or town hall for more information.

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