Leading up to Christmas, having a flocked tree makes your living room feel a little bit like a winter wonderland. After the holiday, having a flocked Christmas tree becomes less than ideal.
Treating the branches of your Christmas tree with flocking makes them look like they're covered in snow, but the chemicals used in that process make flocked trees challenging to dispose of. Figuring out what to do may take a few phone calls to your municipality's recycling and waste management services—and ultimately, maybe a trip to your local landfill.
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Flocked trees and recycling
It's common for municipalities to offer tree recycling services in the weeks following Christmas. Residents can leave their trees, wreaths and garlands curbside, and they'll be picked up by waste management. Real Christmas trees can be recycled in several ways. Municipalities commonly turn them into mulch to use for landscaping public areas or for residents to use. Trees can also be turned into compost or even sunk to the bottom of ponds or lakes to create healthy habitats for fish.
Keep in mind that you might find flocking or artificial snow products labeled as biodegradable, but this doesn't mean you'll be able to recycle the tree. Recycling workers who look at a flocked tree and see fake snow will automatically reject it no matter what product was used.
Flocked trees are generally not accepted for recycling. Wood can't be recycled if it has been contaminated by a chemical product, like flocking spray. It's very unlikely that your municipality's tree recycling service will take your flocked tree, though it doesn't hurt to check.
Disposing of a flocked Christmas tree
Assuming your municipality won't pick up your flocked Christmas tree for recycling, getting the tree to a landfill is generally going to be your only viable option for disposing of it. Trying to convert the tree into mulch, compost or firewood yourself isn't a good idea because you don't want to release the chemicals used in the flocking product into your soil or the air.
So, how do you get a flocked tree to the landfill? If you have access to a saw, you may be able to safely cut the tree into pieces small enough to fit into trash bins or contractor-grade trash bags to be left curbside for pickup. If that's not feasible, you may need to transport the tree to a landfill yourself, or hire someone with a truck to do it for you. Because every municipality has its own rules and recommendations for waste disposal, the best option is to call your local solid waste agency for specific guidance about landfilling a flocked tree.
Love the look of a white Christmas tree, but hate the thought of your tree ending up in a landfill? Using the same flocked tree over and over is a more sustainable choice than disposing of a real flocked tree every January. Next year you might elect to use a flocked artificial Christmas tree so you can use the same tree again.
How to flock a Christmas tree
Despite the disposal challenges, many people still want to know how to make a flocked Christmas tree. Nestling ornaments and lights into the "snowy" branches lets them shine in a way you don't get from a traditional green tree. Some Christmas tree farms sell trees that are pre-flocked, or you can use one of several tree flocking methods at home.
Methods to flock a Christmas tree include:
- Flocking powder. The tree is spritzed with water from a spray bottle, and the powder is sprinkled over the branches from a sifter and dries hard.
- Flocking spray. This method is quick and easy and creates an all-over snowy effect. Decorating the tree this way is as easy as using hairspray or spray paint.
- Using household materials. People have been experimenting with making DIY flocking for decades, using things like soap flakes, shaving cream and cornstarch. Find detailed tutorials online for these methods, which are ideal for creating fluffy piles of "snow" on the branches.
With any method, cover the floor and other nearby surfaces with old sheets or drop cloths to protect them from the inevitable mess. If you're using flocking spray, work in a ventilated room or do the project outdoors. Fluff the branches until you're happy with the shape of the tree before adding flocking. And with any method, let the tree dry completely before adding Christmas lights and ornaments.
Enjoy a flocked tree as part of your Christmas decor now, but make a plan to get rid of it when the holiday season is over. Dealing with an unexpected tree cleanup problem is hardly a good way to start your New Year!