How can I recycle my real Christmas tree in Scotland?

Christmas tree Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption With the festivities over thoughts turn to taking down the decorations and getting rid of the tree

By now, your real Christmas tree has likely seen better days. So how can you get rid of it?

According to Zero Waste Scotland more than half a million real Christmas trees are bought in Scotland each year and how we dispose of them can make a big difference to their carbon footprint.

Most Scottish councils now offer recycling or composting services for real trees to cut down on waste dumped in landfill.

And in some parts of the country the festive centrepieces are helping to fight coastal erosion with old trees used to reinforce sand dunes and river banks.

In Renfrewshire, one Scout troop is raising funds by offering to pick up your tree for a donation and shred it off-site to be used as compost.

Andrew Pankhurst from Zero Waste Scotland told the BBC the greenest option at Christmas was to opt for a real tree in a pot.

"If you did do that then the most sustainable thing to do with it is plant it in your garden, if you have space for it, " he said. "Then you can just dig it back up next year and use it again.

"However, the vast majority of real trees that people buy don't come with a root system, they are just cut.

"If we put real Christmas trees into our landfill collections it's the same as throwing away food waste, so when it goes to landfill it does break down but it creates methane which contributes to climate change."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Zero Waste Scotland is encouraging people to get their tree composted

He said the best thing to do with a real Christmas tree was to get it composted.

"If you have a green waste collection or a garden bin then you can chop the smaller branches off and put them in there. I kept the trunk for my log burner.

"Or you can take it to your local recycling centre where they usually have a special place for them."

He also praised schemes aimed at giving Christmas trees a "second life".

Plugging the craters

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Media captionChristmas trees used to build up sand dunes

In St Andrews, the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust has been working in partnership with the St Andrews Links Trust to combat sand dune erosion.

They are asking members of the public to donate old Christmas trees which can be placed in craters to encourage dune regeneration and enhance vegetation at West Sands.

Ranger Rachael Hunter said: "The West Sands dune system is a major coastal sea defence but it is under threat from climate change, rising sea levels and storms surges, with high tides and strong winds penetrating the sand dunes.

"There has been a restoration project going on here since 2010 since a storm surge penetrated the system."

Image caption The old trees help stabilise the sand dune system

She added: "The idea is to use recycled Christmas trees to help fill in the craters within the sand dunes to help stabilise and re-profile the dunes system.

"We put the trees in place and then we bring sand in from a sustainable source to top-up the Christmas trees and then volunteers will plant Lyme grass.

"Last year we had about 400 Christmas trees donated to the site and this year we are expecting the same."

In Shetland, Christmas trees deposited at the council's recycling centre are incinerated to produce hot water for the Lerwick district heating scheme during one of the coldest periods of the year.

Where can I recycle my Christmas tree? The services in your area.

Image caption Some councils will collect old trees while others ask residents to drop them off at recycling centres

Aberdeen city - Trees can be recycled at recycling centres, or residents with household wheelie bins will have their real Christmas tree collected on their usual brown bin day from 6 to 17 January, and the tree should be placed alongside the brown bin. Communal bin users should leave their tree by their bins for collection, which will take place between 6 and 17 January.

Aberdeenshire - Real trees can be dropped in green waste bins at recycling centres.

Angus - Christmas trees can be cut up and placed in green garden waste bins or taken to a recycling centre.

Argyll and Bute - Trees to be taken to a recycling centres for composting.

Clackmannanshire - Christmas trees can be disposed of alongside the garden waste at the Forthbank recycling centre in Alloa. The waste will be sent elsewhere to be made into a "compost-like soil enhancer".

Dumfries and Galloway - Real Christmas trees can be taken to a household waste recycling centre as green waste. If you are able to compost at home, the branches can go into a garden compost bin. Alternatively, real trees can be cut into lengths up to 1m long and placed out for collection alongside wheeled bins or refuse sacks until 17 January.

Dundee - You can request your tree to be uplifted by the council from the week beginning 6 January. It will then be shredded to produce compost which you can buy for your own garden. Or you can take it to certain recycling centres.

East Ayrshire - Real Christmas trees can be taken to the recycling centres. Free sacks are available for storage and transportation.

East Dunbartonshire - Skips are arranged in Kirkintilloch, Bishopbriggs and Bearsden for locals to put their Christmas trees in. They will be in place from 5 January. Or residents can arrange for a Christmas tree or a one-off collection of garden waste bin to be picked up free of charge between 18 and 25 January.

East Lothian - Real Christmas trees can be composted by taking them to a Recycling Centre or presenting them beside brown bins on garden waste collection dates in January.

East Renfrewshire - Free kerbside recycling on 6 January. Leave it on the kerb or put it in your brown bin (if it fits). If the council doesn't pick up the Christmas tree on this day, it will be collected in the following days.

Edinburgh - Free kerbside pickup is available for trees to be recycled into compost. Collection dates vary by street. Trees must be prepared by removing stand or base, decorations, cutting it in half if it is 1.8m (6ft) or taller.

Falkirk- Trees can be taken to recycling centres or a bulky uplift or brown bin collection can be arranged via Falkirk Council.

Fife - You can recycle your real Christmas tree in your brown bin, or take it to a recycling centre. If you are putting it in the brown bin, you must be able to close the lid.

Glasgow - Real Christmas trees can be put in the brown bin for kerbside collection for those who have one - you need to be able to close the lid, though. Alternatively, trees can be taken to any of the council recycling centres, or taken to one of the three recycling points in Kelvingrove, Pollok or Alexandra Parks between 3 and 19 January.

Highland - Householders should take Christmas trees to their local recycling centres for composting.

Inverclyde - Real Christmas trees can be taken to the Pottery Street recycling centre. The Kirn Drive recycling centre is currently closed and its replacement at Craigmuschat Quarry, does not have the facilities to accept Christmas trees.

Midlothian - If you cannot take your tree to your nearest recycling centre, the council will arrange a bulky uplift for a charge of £26.

Moray - You can recycle your tree by putting it out next to your brown bin, or taking it to your nearest manned recycling centre. All Christmas trees collected in Moray are turned into compost.

North Ayrshire - Christmas trees will be collected if they are in sections of 1.5m (5ft) or less. You can check the collection date for your address here.

North Lanarkshire - A special uplift of your tree can be arranged via the council for free by phoning 01698 403110. The trees are composted. Or you can take them to one of six recycling centres.

Orkney Islands - The council will do a Christmas tree collection in February for households within the 30mph zones on the Orkney Mainland and in the connected South Isles. Alternatively, they can be taken to local recycling centres.

Perth and Kinross - You can chop up your tree and put it in your brown-lidded bin if you have a garden waste permit, or take it to a local recycling centre.

Renfrewshire - Real Christmas trees should be taken to your nearest recycling site and put in the green waste skips.

Scottish Borders - Take your tree to any recycling centre for composting.

Shetland Islands - Two local wildlife sanctuaries are collecting Christmas trees for their animals.

South Ayrshire - To recycle your tree, cut it up and put it in your brown bin. You should arrange a free winter brown bin collection.

South Lanarkshire - Real Christmas trees can be taken to recycling centres. Vans or cars with trailers must phone to pre-book for the Carluke site.

Stirling - Real Christmas trees can be left in the garden waste skips at any of the council's three recycling centres, or can be chopped up and placed in household brown bins.

West Dunbartonshire - Real trees can be recycled at two recycling centres - in Renton and Old Kilpatrick. Alternatively, leave them next to (not in) your brown bin for a kerbside collection. Cut it if it is taller than the brown bin.

Western Isles - Real trees can be taken to the household waste recycling plant in Stornoway where they will be dealt with as garden waste.

West Lothian - Real trees with decorations removed can go in brown bids - as long as the bin lid closes. If the tree is too big, it will need to be chopped up to fit.

Reality Check: Your Christmas tree's carbon footprint

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Media captionWhat's your Christmas tree's carbon footprint and should you go fake or fir?

They are the ultimate Christmas decoration and millions are bought in the UK each year. But what impact do Christmas trees - real and artificial - have on the environment?

How you dispose of your real tree can make a big difference to its carbon footprint - according to the Carbon Trust, if you burn your Christmas tree, plant it or have it chipped or composted, its carbon footprint is reduced by up to 80%.

A real tree that is recycled - for example chipped or composted, or keeps growing - can have negligible or even negative emissions.

A fake tree needs to be re-used at least 10 times before the benefit exceeds that of a real tree which is only used once.

A 2m artificial tree has a carbon footprint which is more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill - and more than 10 times that of real trees that are burned.

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