How To Recycle Your Christmas Tree in Los Angeles

Time to kick that tree to the curb. But is that allowed in your city?
Time to kick that tree to the curb. But is that allowed in your city?

On the 12th day of Christmas, my city gave to me—a chance to recycle my Christmas tree!

Whether from a lot at the corner or a cut-your-own farm in LA's outer regions, we lug those lovely-smelling, triangular chunks of evergreen wonder home on top of our cars each December amid singing, warm drinks, and family bonding. Thoughts of what will become of them a few weeks later are pushed to the outer regions of our To Do Lists. Well, the 12th day of Christmas is quickly approaching, and our To Do Lists have come home to roost. Luckily, recycling a Christmas tree does not have to be difficult to arrange; all you need is a little information, which we've assembled here!

If you live in the city of Los Angeles itself, tree recycling couldn't be easier; the city will pick up your tree on your normal curbside trash/recycling collection day, recycling them into compost and mulch. If you happen to miss your collection day and want to get the tree out of the house, the city has tree drop-off locations at mulching facilities, parks, and fire stations. All locations and dates are available online.

The same easy-peasy pick-up rules apply in several other LA area communities, including Beverly Hills, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Redondo BeachTorrance, West Hollywood, and most parts of Orange County. If you have any questions about tree collection rules in your area, be sure to check with your city's sanitation department.

Early birds and those who can fit their trees into their compost bins can have trees collected throughout the month. If you leave your tree up to enjoy the twinkling lights well into January, and your tree won't fit in the compost bin, check with your city to make sure they'll pick up a tree left on the curb past the middle of the month.

Follow these instructions for curbside collection, whatever your community:

  1. Remove all ornaments, decorations, tinsels, or stand from the tree.
  2. If using the green bin, cut the tree in pieces to fit into the green bin. Otherwise, set it next to the bin. (Residents of multifamily buildings can simply place trees curbside on collection day.)
  3. Do not place the tree in any kind of bag.
  4. Flocked trees cannot be recycled.

A few communities have limitations or more specific directions for tree collection. Following the directions below will make sure that the tree that gave you so much joy this season ends its days recycled in the way that is best for the planet:

Santa Monica residents, after years of piling Christmas trees into wagons and lugging them to local parks, now have curbside composting. Drag that tree no farther than the alley or the curb, and your job is done, in the most eco-friendly way possible. Please remember that trees will NOT be collected from the parks. Collection takes place through the third week in January.

Malibu offers one location (the Chili Cook-off lot) to drop trees off anytime from December 27 through January 10. If not brought to this drop-off spot, the tree must be cut up to fit in a green waste bin.

Long Beach offers curbside pick-up on January 8 (one day only), or invites residents to drop off trees from December 28 through January 7 at twelve different locations from 9am-5pm weekdays or 9am-2pm weekends.

Burbank's Recycle Center picks up from curbs and alleys (January 4-22) and accepts drop-offs at McCambridge, Ralph Foy, and Verdugo Parks (December 26 - January 22). Requests for tree collection after these dates are subject to fees.

Glendale's curbside pickup begins January 3, and trees can be left next to the yard trimmings container for single-family homes, and in the building parkway for multi-family residences.

Pasadena residents should either cut their trees to fit in their yard waste containers for curbside pick-up or bring them to be recycled by dropping them at Eaton Blanche or Robinson Park from 7am-2pm on December 26 - January 4. Trees are also collected from the curbside during the first two weeks of January

Ventura County residents have three options. If your tree can be cut to pieces and fit into your waste recycling cart, it will be picked up on regular collection days. If it will not fit, call the number on the trash bin to find out when and how and when your city allows residents to set whole trees at the curb for pickup. The county also lists free drop-off locations online.

If the hassle of dragging your tree out seems like more effort than you care to repeat, next year consider a living Christmas tree; those get picked up by cheery people with strong backs!

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy 2022!
Originally published January 3, 2012

Photo by Ann Oro

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