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How to Clean up After Christmas (Responsibly)

Wrapping paper and Christmas decorations in a box
The most wonderful time of the year.

Christmastime is here! But what happens after the carols are sung, the gifts are unwrapped, and all the holiday leftovers are devoured? Before you toss your raggedy tree and broken Christmas lights into the garbage bin, make sure you do your research on how to (responsibly) dispose of your Christmas waste.

1. Christmas Tree

It's crucial to dispose of your Christmas tree before it becomes too dry and desiccated, or it can become a fire hazard. Luckily, most cities offer free tree disposal services, either through designated pickup days or drop-off locations.

Man holding christmas tree
Properly dispose your tree.

Curbside Pickup

Check your city's official website for information regarding pickup days. To prepare for pickup, remove all decorations from your tree. Wrap up your Christmas tree in a sheet or tree bag to avoid making a mess as you move it out of your home. Depending on your city's guidelines, you may have to cut larger trees into smaller pieces.

Recycling Centers

Many recycling centers offer free Christmas tree drop-off during the holiday season. These centers can turn your tree into mulch, which you can use for your garden.


If you have a wood chipper handy, you can make mulch yourself. Or if you have an artistic side, you can turn your tree into coasters or birdhouses. Whatever DIY project you decide to do, make sure you dispose of the leftovers in the appropriate yard waste bin.

Pro Tips:

  • Use a rubber broom to sweep away needles and rubbing alcohol to remove sap from floors or furniture.

  • Never use your Christmas tree as kindling for your fireplace. The wood will burn too hot and fast, and could cause a chimney fire. Instead, safely burn your tree in an outdoor fire pit.


2. Wrapping Paper

Unfortunately, most Christmas wrapping, especially paper with glittery or raised textures, cannot be recycled. Certain materials, however, such as cardboard boxes or plain tissue paper, are recyclable.

Perfectly wrapped present
Gift wrapped in recyclable paper.


  • Cardboard boxes

  • Plain tissue paper

  • Plain wrapping paper


  • Glittery paper

  • Glossy paper

  • Bows

  • Ribbons

Pro Tips:

  • Wrap your presents in sustainable materials such as newspaper or plain kraft paper.

  • Salvage gift bags or wrapping paper for next year.


3. Christmas Lights

Certain light bulbs, such as CFLs, should never be thrown in the regular garbage bin due to the mercury inside of them. Luckily, light recycling services are easy to come by. Whether you're swapping incandescent lights for LEDs or simply getting rid of broken lights, there are plenty of ways to recycle.

string of christmas lights on the ground
Christmas lights.

City Recycling Programs

Depending on where you live, your city may have a program for recycling old lights, either through drop-off locations or curbside pickup. Check your city's official website for more information.

Local Hardware Stores

Some local hardware stores will happily recycle your old Christmas lights for free. Contact the store ahead of time to see if they offer this service.

Mail-In Recycling

Certain companies accept Christmas lights through mail-in recycling programs.

  • has a year-round recycling program. If you send them your lights, you will receive a coupon for 15% off of their LED Christmas lights.

  • This recycling program is also open all year. They offer a 10% off discount code for mail-ins. All recycling proceeds go to the DFW Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.


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