There’s nothing like a fresh Christmas tree, decorated to the nines, to get the kiddos in the holiday spirit. Yet after a few weeks, those trees get a little droopy and dry. Before you toss your old tree and lights out on the curb, try the eco-friendly option of treecycling that turns your holiday tree into everything from garden mulch to wood chips. It’s easier than you think. Keep reading for a list of convenient options.

Christmas Tree Recycling

Christmas Tree Curbside Residential Pickup
If you currently have curbside yard debris service from your garbage and recycling company, you can place your tree at your curb on pick-up day after following these simple steps:

1. Prep your tree by removing all decorations and adornments (ornaments, tinsel, lights, wire, nails, etc.) and returning the tree to its original state.

2. Trim your tree to six feet or shorter (branches to less than four feet) to fit into the collection trucks.

3. Bundle each section with sisal string or twine (not plastic). Flocked and plastic trees will not be accepted for curbside recycling.

Tree Recycling & Disposal Stations
At several King County Recycling and Transfer Stations, clean trees can be recycled as yard waste starting in January 2021. Trees should not exceed eight feet in length, must be free of decorations and must be separated from garbage and recyclables. Trunks should not exceed four inches in diameter. To see which King County facilities will accept holiday trees as yard waste and their hours of operation, click here. Psst! At all other King County facilities, trees will be accepted as garbage at the garbage fee which ranges from $1 to $5 per tree.

Contact a Local Scout Group
Many area Scouting groups host annual Christmas tree recycling events, and although they may look different this year, Seattle and Eastside troops are making plans to keep the tradition going. If you live in on the south end of the city (Burien, Normandy Park, Des Moines and White Center) Scout Troop 375/8357 can help you out. They will be taking trees ($5) at the FOE Burien Eagles Lodge (920 S.W. 149th St.) on January 2 & 3, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. They'll have a safe curbside pick-up option available for area families as well ($15/tree). All you need to do is sign up and leave it to the kids. Scout Troop 600, serving West Bellevue (Beaux Arts, Medina, Clyde Hill or Hunts or Yarrow Points), is another that traditionally holds an event. Keep your eyes peeled for these pop-ups around the city, and remember for safety reasons many troops cannot accept flocked or artificial trees, trees wrapped in plastic or with metal attachments, trees with tinsel or nails or wreathes with metal shape wires.

Purchase a Living Tree
This year, you can add a green twist to your family’s holiday tree hunting tradition by purchasing at a living tree at a nearby nursery. Swansons Nursery carries a great selection of live trees, including trees from around the world. On the Eastside, Squak Mt. Greenhouses & Nursery offers spruce, pines, firs and more to add sustainability to your season. Plan ahead for this option, as living trees can only be kept indoors for around a week. Then, they must either be planted outside in the garden or in an outdoor container. Living trees also require a little extra love when used indoors—download Swanson Nursery's living tree care sheet to learn more.

Note: The cost of purchasing a living tree depends on the tree’s size, and generally ranges from $50 to $125. Trees vary in size from as small as 18” to 6’ or taller.

Holiday Light Recycling

Bring Them to a Local Hardware Store or Drop-Off Center
If you have burned-out light strands or you’ve decided to replace your traditional lights with new energy-efficient LED ones, there are several places around the city to recycle your holiday lights. All seven Puget Sound area McLendon Hardware stores will take your old holiday lights, as will the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware. Uptekk also offers a recycling drop-off center in Auburn, and West Seattle Recycling has a drop-off center on 16th Ave. S.W. in the city. Psst! If light strings have the old-style large bulbs, remove the bulbs before dropping them off.

Get Them Picked Up
Ridwell, a paid recycling collection program ($10-$14/month) serving many King County neighborhoods, will offer its special holiday lights collection service the first two weeks of January 2021 for its customers. If you've been thinking about subscribing to this service, maybe now's the time. Be sure to sign up by mid-December so your account is ready to go once the collection starts. 

Trade Them in by Mail
If you want to recycle your old holidays lights and save money on new LED lights, take advantage of the mail-in Christmas light recycling program. Instead of driving your lights to a drop off location, simply box them up and mail them to In return, you’ll receive a coupon good for 15% off LED Christmas lights. Holiday lights are accepted year-round. Note: Once you have packed up and shipped your lights, complete the Christmas light recycling form and the company will email you your coupon as soon as they confirm shipment.

Donate Your Lights
All those magical displays you see around the neighborhood? They take a lot of prep and tons of twinkling lights to put on every year. Many are looking for (and appreciate) donated lights and other outdoor holiday decor. The Very Merry Christmas House is a particularly eco-conscious display—much of their decor is saved from the landfill, with new pieces added every year.

Light Recycling Tips: Remove all packaging, twist-ties and rubber bands from the light strands and place the lights in the bin without bags or extra material. Most of the places listed below will take your lights through the beginning of January. However, we recommend you call ahead and confirm before dropping them off.

—Allison Sutcliffe & Kristina Moy

Click here to find out what else is going on in Seattle this holiday season!


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