The holiday season has drawn to a close, leaving many Minnesotans with questions about how to properly dispose of their Christmas trees.
While it may seem convenient to toss the tree in the backyard or dump it in a remote area, this can spread invasive pests and diseases that threaten native trees and forests.
Each year over 25 million real Christmas trees are purchased across America. In Minnesota, the Department of Agriculture (MDA) recommends using curbside pickup services or bringing trees to designated drop-off sites, which many cities and counties offer this time of year.
Contact your local waste hauler, city, or county to find available options. You can also use the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s map of yard waste compost sites, but call ahead to confirm they accept trees.
If organized pickup or drop-off is unavailable in your area, burning the tree may be possible, but first check your local fire regulations.
The MDA cautions, “Always check fire danger conditions and burning restrictions before burning and follow local ordinances.”
It’s crucial not to dump trees in backyards, woods, or home compost piles, as this can spread pests. Diseases like boxwood blight and invasive insects like elongate hemlock scale can live on out-of-state trees.
When introduced here, they can damage and kill Minnesota’s native hemlocks, firs, spruces, and other trees. Invasive vines like round-leaf bittersweet can also spread through wreaths and decorations.
For these, the safest disposal method is the trash after removing all decorations.
If you suspect a tree or greenery contains invasive pests, report it immediately to the MDA’s Report a Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 or online at www.mda.state.mn.us/reportapest. Don’t attempt personal disposal, as this risks wider spread.
Here are disposal options and rules for the Twin Cities area:
Remove all decorations including lights, ornaments, tinsel, stands, and wrapping.
- Cut trees over 6 feet tall in half before setting curbside.
- Do not put trees in plastic bags.
- Place trees on the curb on regular trash day.
- Wreaths and garlands should go in the trash, not yard waste.
Minneapolis offers curbside Christmas tree pickup. Trees over 6 feet must be cut in half. The city says trees are often sprayed with chemicals so they are burned for energy.
St. Paul provides curbside pickup from Jan. 2-15, but only one tree per property. Trees over 6 feet or 20 pounds may need disposal as a bulky item.
Carver County’s Environmental Center provides free drop-off from Dec. 29-Jan. 29 for county residents. Boy Scout Troop 337 also organizes pickups. Cities like Cologne, Mayer, and Norwood Young America have options too. Ask haulers if they offer pickup.
Dakota County lists yard waste drop-off sites, but check for fees. Resource Recover Technologies in Rosemount and Gertens Brickyard both receive live Chrimast Trees and Wreaths. West St. Paul says many haulers provide post-Christmas pickup.
Hennepin County provides a list of city recycling contacts and places accepting old holiday lights. Contact your hauler about tree disposal.
Ramsey County offers drop-off at Arden Hills, Frank and Sims, Midway, and White Bear Township yard waste sites. It also advises contacting your hauler about pickup options. Their household hazardous waste collection site accepts holiday lights and electrical cords.
In Scott County the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Organics Recycling is allowing free drop off December 26th – January 26th Monday – Friday from 8am – 3pm. Dick’s Sanitation in Shakopee picks up trees January 2nd – January 12th for a $20 fee.
In Washington County, the Newport Recycling Center takes trees for a fee.
By properly disposing of Christmas trees through available pickup or drop-off options, Twin Cities residents can prevent invasive pest spread and help trees get recycled or beneficially reused.
Act quickly once the holidays end to ensure your tree doesn’t end up where it doesn’t belong. With a few simple precautions, we can protect Minnesota’s forests and landscapes.