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How to properly dispose of your NYC Christmas tree once the holidays are over

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It might seem Scrooge-like to start planning how to ditch your Christmas tree when the holiday itself is still a few days away, but no one wants a living room full of dried pine needles, and unlike our suburban counterparts who can simply haul their trees out to the curb, in a typical NYC apartment building, there a few more logistical concerns to keep in mind.

First, there are official collection dates and protocol to consider. Weather permitting, the city will collect trees for composting from Tuesday, January 2nd, through Saturday, January 14th. (Put it on the curb outside of that date range, and it will be collected as garbage. As for fake trees, those are always collected as recycling.) The city notes to remove any "lights, ornaments, and plastic bags" from the tree, otherwise it will be collected as garbage.  

*This post originally ran in December 2014 and was updated with new information on December 20, 2016.*

And if you're keen to do the disposal yourself, the city is holding its annual Mulchfest event on January 7th and 8th from 10 am to 2 pm. As for artificial trees that are in good condition but you're not planning to hang onto, the city also recommends giving them to DonateNYC, instead of just tossing them out with the recycling. 

But if you live in an apartment building, the real trick is getting the tree from your apartment to the street without littering common areas in pine needles or causing undue hassle for your building's staff. Trees are a surprisingly big hassle for management, as we've covered before

Of course, this is New York, so you can always pay someone else, like Tyler’sTrees and NYC Trees, to do the heavy lifting for you. Prices start at $50, per Time Out New York. This year, TaskRabbit is also stepping up to the plate, offering Christmas tree removal services through January 6th, at a cost of $65 to $70, and available to book within the app.

"The biggest headache for the staff are residents who wait until the very last minute to dispose of their trees," says an Upper East Side doorman and columnist for A Doorman Speaks, noting that by mid-January, most trees are particularly dried out, and cause extra mess. 

Indeed, we once saw missive from an Upper West Side building beseeching residents not to cram trees down the trash chute, in case you were considering that questionable disposal option:

The rule of thumb is to take into account your building's trash system and any policies they might have in place—the Upper West Side building also okayed residents taking trees to the basement garbage room instead of the curb, and putting in a service request if they'd like maintenance staff to take care of the tree. "My building has a spot in front where we usually tell the residents they can leave the trees," the Upper East Side doorman says. 

Your best bet, if taking the tree down solo, is to use a service elevator if possible to minimize the tree detritus that ends up scattered in the building's common areas. And when in doubt, check in with the super or doorman about when, how, and where they'd like you to take your aging tree, and if they end up helping you out—or handling it altogether—remember to make it worth their while with a tip.

 

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