Disposing of your Christmas tree

 (Last updated for 2023 Holiday Season)

Now that Christmas has come and gone, let’s talk about how that tree can be disposed of properly. Here are the do’s and don’ts of Christmas tree disposal.

DO: Take advantage of any local Christmas tree recycling program. Usually this means curbside (with your trash) pickup of the trees during a set time period, or you drop the trees off at a central depot somewhere in your town or city. Look in your newspaper or check online (searching for “Christmas tree recycling” and then the name of your town, as in “Christmas Tree Recycling Las Vegas” usually works best) for options near you. In some areas, locally sourced trees are used by the local Natural Resources groups to improve habitat for people or animals.

DO: Play it safe. If you can’t find a local Christmas Tree Recycling program (best choice!), just take it to your local municipal composting facility, solid waste facility, dump, or landfill. These choices are the safest way to dispose of your tree when it comes to risking the emergence and spread of forest pests or invasive weeds that could be hidden in your tree’s needles, bark, or wood.

DON’T: Burn your Christmas tree in your fireplace or wood stove. The sap from fresh trees can sometimes create a fire hazard in your chimney or vent piping. Not worth the risk! While promptly burning your tree (midwinter) in an outside bonfire could be OK if local laws and practical safety allow, indoor burning isn’t a good idea because of this safety concern.

DON’T: Set the tree out in your backyard – whether intended for birds, as a windbreak, or to compost later. Over the winter and into springtime many sorts of pests, weed seeds, and tree diseases could emerge and contaminate your property. It might seem like a harmless idea, but it really could result in a big negative impact.

For the full scoop, visit our Holiday Greenery page!

Thanks for reading!


Dear Don’t Move Firewood from Wisconsin

An alert citizen in Wisconsin posted a great question to Don’t Move Firewood today;

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

I own a farm in (town removed) Wisconsin and 40 acres of wood was blown down in the July storms. I would like to bring the oak to my home in (town removed) Minnesota to burn, is that alright to do?


Dan from Minnesota

Dear Dan,

I hate to tell you, but this is a really bad idea on a two levels.

Most importantly in terms of a simple answer, it is often illegal to move hardwood firewood across state and county lines in this particular region of the country. I can’t give you any firm legal advice because I don’t know the route you’d take, and I’d hate to get you in trouble if I was wrong, but I must say this really puts you at a serious potential liability.

Secondly, this isn’t a good idea because your farm is in the midst of a great sea of potential invaders. You probably know that oaks don’t carry emerald ash borer (if they did, we’d name them emerald oak borer) but there are several species of both native and invasive insects in the midwest that do infest and kill oaks. Your worst nightmare is taking this wood from your place in Wisconsin- where unbeknownst to you it had some serious insect infestation- and bringing that infestation to Minnesota where it will destroy your trees, your property value, and potentially (eventually) all the trees for hundreds of miles.

I know this sounds apocalyptic, but it isn’t outlandish. It happens all the time with other pests, and of course nobody would ever do this on purpose.

A much better thing to do is to use the wood on site in Wisconsin, or give it to neighboring residents or farms that are less than 10 miles away. You could take it as an opportunity to help the less fortunate, if you can donate the wood to a neighbor that really needs it.

Thanks for asking, and I’m sorry the answer is no- but like I said, it really puts you at risk to move that wood!

Firewood law passes in Oregon

Congratulations to the smart folks that worked tirelessly to pass a firewood preventative measure in Oregon! Starting in a little over a year, firewood that is sold in Oregon will need to either be from a neighboring state, or kiln (high heat) dryed and labeled. Here at Don’t Move Firewood, we think this is a great step forward to protect the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and we’ll be working to spread the word about this law- and any information how the preparation for implementation goes in 2012- as we learn more!

To learn more, visit the Oregon Laws site: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/570.720 



Regulations in Tennessee

Sometimes, even the experts at Dear Don’t Move Firewood don’t have all the answers. Here’s our latest inquiry, with a guest answer from Tim Phelps at the Tennessee Division of Forestry.

Dear Don’t Move Firewood,

I understand that we should not move firewood where I live in Tennessee… I live in Knox County which has a quarantine, my family’s farm is in Union County which is not under quarantine at this time. The firewood there is free for my cutting. But, am I allowed to move firewood this far? Can I move it from county to county. Or is the ban only for moving firewood across state lines? Is it okay to move firewood from a non quarantined county to a quarantined county. The distance to move it would be under thirty miles. Is this too far? Should I look for a safe and affordable fuel wood source locally in Knoxville? This is sad that this is happening. Wood is how we heat our home and save money. Just looking for answers and some direction on what I should do.

Thanks, Robert in Tennessee

Dear Robert,

Thanks for your interest and willingness to go the extra mile to find the correct information regarding movement of firewood in and out of regulated areas in Tennessee. In general, the restrictions in Tennessee allow you to move firewood from a non-regulated county to a regulated county, but that material cannot come back out of the regulated county unless it meets certain requirements. Tennessee has firewood movement restrictions in several of its eastern counties of the state, not all – yet. The restrictions are in place based on the presence of either the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) or Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD), or both. The counties you mentioned – Knox and Union – are among those that restrict the movement of firewood. Knox County because it has both EAB and TCD. Union County is also currently under quarantine, but only for TCD (as of August 15, 2011).

Because Knox has both, you can move firewood into that county from Union. However, because Union does not have EAB, you cannot move firewood from Knox to Union. This is indeed confusing, but it amplifies the point that firewood is a pathway for multiple threats and that we need to limit its movement if we stand any chance of slowing the spread of these insects and diseases.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has “Regulations in Plain Language” for both the EAB and TCD quarantines available on their website for further reference.



You may also call their Regulatory Services Division at 1-800-628-2631.

Thanks for asking!

Tim Phelps, Tennessee Division of Forestry.

Don’t Move Firewood, it bugs me; the story of a cool bumper sticker

You may have seen the stickers out there- Don’t Move Firewood, it bugs me. And sometimes people email us to ask- where do they come from? Are they from the Don’t Move Firewood campaign itself?


I have answers!


The “Don’t Move Firewood, it bugs me” bumper stickers (well, bumper magnets) are a product of another group working on the firewood problem- specifically, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Emerald ash borer team. These magnets are great, because they are eye catching, widespread, and get the message across. But no, we don’t make them ourselves here at Don’t Move Firewood.


You might notice at the bottom of the magnet, below “it bugs me,” is a link to emeraldashborer.info, which is a very informative website about one of the most harmful pests that travel on firewood, the emerald ash borer. If you want to learn about that bug, you should totally visit their site.


Lastly, I wanted to take the time to thank USDA-APHIS for sending the Don’t Move Firewood campaign team a whopping 10,000 of these magnets for our summer outreach project this year. We are really excited to be able to use our outreach booth to benefit both their group, and our group, towards our common goal of firewood outreach. Thanks!