How To Recycle a Christmas Tree in Pittsburgh

First, if you put your tree at the curb – the City will take it, but it will NOT be recycled.  That’s very important.

I had a chat with a local organization that used to recycle trees and they told me it is not a very profitable endeavor – essentially they  chip the trees into mulch, but the sap often “gums up” the machinery making it less desirable for farmers and wood people to want to participate (and more expensive to pay for that clean up.)

Recycle Christmas Tree
Remember, no curbside recycling of trees in Pittsburgh.

While the City and County both have the capacity to chip the trees, they do not have the capacity to collect them curbside or to deal with the trees bags, lights, ornaments and other hazards that people leave on their trees. So we have to haul our tree to a designated space to have it recycled into mulch. That’s a fair deal. They can turn away trees that aren’t appropriate and not waste our public resources.

The City has 4 locations

2nd Division P.W. (East End) – on North Dallas Ave at Hamilton Ave: 412-665-3609

 3rd Division P.W. (Hazelwood) – on Melanchton Ave., off 5200 block of 2nd Ave: 412-422-6524

 5th Division P.W. (West End) – at 1330 Hassler St., off of Hershel & Steuben (next to Herschel Park): 412-937-3054

 Environmental Services Lot (Strip District) – at 3001 Railroad Street (next to Old City Tow Pound Location): 412-255-2773

The County accepts trees at all 9 county parks.

If you think “it will biodegrade if I throw it into this abandoned lot” – think again. Here’s a picture of my neighborhood – an empty lot where someone dumped tree branches last spring. Still waiting for the magic biodegrade thing to kick in – this is called “illegal dumping” not recycling or composting. Put it out on your own property if you must.

Manchester North Avenue
These tree branches are NOT decomposing. They are trash that was dumped. Don’t be that guy.


Other items to recycle?

First – take a moment to consider – can your item be put to reuse by someone else? If so, consider:

  • Goodwill Industries of SW PA – proceeds benefit their many, many good community programs (and they are LGBTQ friendly)
  • Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse – they have a very clear list of items they do and do not accept.
  • Off the Floor – works with nonprofits to get gently used furniture and accessories to families in need
  • East End Community Thrift (“Thrifty”) – a thrift store that works very closely with 100 different homeless organizations to make sure people can access clothing at no cost. They also sell to the general public.
Recycle Christmas Lights
Recycle those lights!

I got a new coffeemaker to replace a very much on its last legs machine. I can take the old one to eLoop which also accepts electronics and small appliances.

Christmas and holiday lights? Yes, eLoop will take those as well.

Styrofoam packing? You can take that to The Appliance Warehouse on Bingham Street.

Gift wrap? Some of it can be recycled. Be a good neighbor and remove tape, ribbon, cards, etc. That just means the whole thing is trashed so you are sort of making things worse by not taking time to be a green neighbor. Some cannot be recycled. If you have gift bags that are usable, either reuse them or donate them – the thrift stores, local shelters, etc.

If you have questions, we have a terrific resource here in Western PA called ZeroWastePittsburgh (also the PA Resources Council.)  If I contact them about a specific type of item, they usually either have the answer or can find out.

So, it is really pretty simple.

1. Don’t put your tree at the curb – take it to a recycling center or ask  some neighbors to do it together to save gas.

2. Donate reusable items.

3. Use the links provided to find recycling drop-offs for other items.

And you are off to a green 2014!


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    • Reuse is a big thing for me. Zero Waste Pittsburgh is the place to go when you have questions about to reuse/upcycle something – if its usable, there’s typically somewhere to send it.

  • My workplace does eLoop recycling events. I am bringing in an entire stereo system in January because we don’t use them at all anymore. I will definitely be recycling our tree as well.

    • Is it still usable? You could donate it to Off the Floor for a family in need. But good for you for going to all that effort. And good for your workplace. Thanks for commenting.

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