Elephant toys, fertiliser and goat feed: Weird and wonderful ways to recycle your Christmas tree

Christmas trees can be a tasty treat or an interesting new toy for animals at zoos and farms
Christmas trees can be a tasty treat or an interesting new toy for animals at zoos and farms Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Hannah Brown with AFP & Reuters
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Cut Christmas trees don’t have to be binned at the end of the 12th night - see how others across Europe are putting them to good use.


By now we’ve all heard about the Christmas tree schemes where you rent a potted live tree that’s replanted in a forest each year. But depending on where you live, that’s not always an option - so many of us still purchase a cut tree each December.

Across western Europe, as soon as it hits 6 January, our streets are lined with Christmas trees cast aside after their festive duties are done.

And if you also take into account the trees that are cut, but not sold, that’s an awful lot of trees being thrown away. Surely, there’s more that can be done with them?

Here are four inventive ways you can recycle your Christmas tree into something useful.

4. Turn your Christmas tree into a tasty treat for farm animals

Some city farms and petting zoos offer a tree collection service in exchange for a donation.

Kentish Town City Farm in London, the UK’s oldest city farm, uses the trees they collect to feed their goats. Not only do they taste good but they’re thought to be a natural de-wormer too.

3. Use your Christmas tree for coastal protection

Cut trees can be planted or buried on beaches to help support and heighten sand dunes.

Sand dunes help to protect land from flooding. They are also blue carbon ecosystems, which means they store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests, and have stored one-third of global carbon emissions since the industrial revolution.

When the trees are carefully planted into the ground, as the wind blows the sand it is captured in the branches and builds the dune back up.

Beach Guardian, an organisation based in Cornwall, UK, organises a whole army of volunteers who bring old Christmas trees to the beach to help protect the sand dunes. 

2. Turn your Christmas tree into city compost

If you’re nowhere near a beach or have no local farm to give your tree to, many local councils or charities will take away trees and turn them into fertiliser.

Trees are shredded up and used to keep public spaces flourishing and green.

In Paris, the city council sets up drop off points throughout the city for trees to be collected, shredded and then spread across the city’s green spaces.

“Before, fir trees were burned in incinerators. Now, the material is biodegradable, it's natural, so there is no reason not to exploit it," says Nicolas Soules, a gardener for the City of Paris.

1. Donate your Christmas tree for playtime at the zoo

As well as a tasty treat for farm animals, Christmas trees can be put to good use at zoos, as part of enrichment programmes for a range of animals.

Elephants, gorillas and bison at Berlin and Prague zoo have enjoyed playing with, sniffing and nibbling at leftover trees.

"We get them from vendors, these are unsold Christmas trees,” explains Miroslav Bobek, Director of Prague Zoo. “We do not collect used trees from households because they may contain tiny wires on which decorations and sweets used to hang, and that could be dangerous for the animals."

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm in Clevedon, UK, is also calling for Christmas trees to be donated to their elephants, Bengal tigers, Andean bears, lions, red deer and chickens to eat and play with.


**Watch the video above to learn more about ways to give your old Christmas a new life in January. **

Video editor • Hannah Brown

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