How and Where to Recycle Your Christmas Tree in Virginia

By Nancy B
December 09, 2023

Cover picture by (Spencer R. Layne/U.S. Navy)

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When you're ready to dispose of this year's Christmas tree, we've got resources. Virginia has plenty of sustainable ways to put your tree to good use rather than putting it in the local landfill. Read on!

Can you reuse your Christmas tree for firewood? 

We do not recommend chopping up your tree as fuel for your home fireplace or wood stove. In addition to not being adequately seasoned, evergreens have very high levels of flammable resin. The combination of quick-burning needles and sparks from the tree pitch creates dangerous smoke and sudden large fires. These fires burn extremely hot and can damage your firebox and chimney. 

Pine tree in snow

Can you store a Christmas tree outside until spring? 

While you may want to keep your tree for spring compost or animals outside your house, we do not recommend storing your tree around your home. A dead tree can draw pests, weed seeds, and tree diseases that contaminate other plants and trees. The tree will also dry out, and dry Christmas trees can quickly become a dangerous fire hazard. 

If you have livestock, check with your veterinarian before you feed pine needles to your farm friends. While pine needles can provide nutrient-rich fodder and natural deworming, certain varieties of trees can result in pine toxicity in large amounts.

How do you prepare your tree for recycling?

Start by making sure you have removed all ornaments and hooks, tinsel, lights, and the stand. Do not bag your tree. If your tree is taller than 8 feet, it's a good idea to cut it into two pieces. Do not include an artificial tree for natural Christmas tree recycling and collection. Search online to donate your artificial tree locally, inquire with Goodwill, or post to social media to see if someone would like your used tree.

You can even recycle your old lights. Lowes and Home Depot stores have recycling stations at the entrance where you can drop off old and broken lights, and there are online sources that accept old lights if you're willing to mail them. 

Christmas tree with farm animals

Creative Christmas tree recycling ideas in Virginia

Did you know you can donate your leftover tree for local dune restoration and receive a coupon for a free cheese pizza? Chico's Pizza in Virginia Beach hosts an Annual Tree Drive right after Christmas. Over the years, they have collected more than 500 trees and delivered them to the Outer Banks to help battle beach erosion. The trees and their needles protect vegetation and sand from wind and water erosion, as well as wildlife shelter. The nutrients are also beneficial for the beach grass.

Christmas for the Fish by Virginia State Parks on licensed under CC BY 2.0

Christmas for the Fish by Virginia State Parks on licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can also check with local zoos and animal rescue centers for recycling programs for animals. Claytor Lake, Fairy Stone State Park, and Hungry Mother State Park in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Resources in southwest Virginia, accept fresh Christmas trees to build underwater reef structures for game fish. Get details for disposal locations and deadlines from  Virginia State Parks.

There's even a local Tennessee elephant sanctuary that takes trees for their trunked residents. You can see them enjoying the leftover trees in this video or on their live elecam

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach recycle trees for restoring and conserving dune habitat and the Naval Air Station Oceana is also collecting trees from now through Jan. 31. The Virginia Living Museum in Richmond recycles natural Christmas trees for the animals in their care. 


                                 Photo courtesy of NOVEC      

VA community recycling and collection locations

Home Depot and Lowes stores in some locations hold tree collection events. Call your local store to ask if one is scheduled. Additionally, your city waste management most likely has a composting or recycling program available. Some local recycling centers will chip your tree up and turn it into mulch. Check county government sites for recycling efforts in your area. 


NOVEC recycling program



Albemarle County





Coastal Virginia

Hampton Roads

Gloucester County


Prince George County


James City

Colonial Heights

Hanover County




Virginia Beach

Do you know about a recycling program we haven't mentioned? Let us know

Learn more about homeowners insurance in Virginia >

THE NORTHERN NECK INSURANCE INTEGRITY PROMISE — We pledge to provide straight talk and good counsel from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts through our blog. While we hope you find this to be a helpful source of information, it does not replace the guidance of a licensed insurance professional, nor does it modify the terms of your Northern Neck Insurance policy in any way. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy.