Treecycle! Where to Recycle Your Holiday Tree & Lights

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Maybe your strings of holiday lights are busted or you can’t figure out how to wind them back into their storage boxes (why are the containers so vexingly compact!?). If this is the last year the lights—along with your tree—will be in play, discard them eco-consciously. Here are solutions for recycling that big fir and all those bulbs using local services.

photo: Human tree via Maria Chambers

Reduce, reuse with the City of Chicago tree pickup service
The City of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation department does more than clear our winter roads of snow and ice and remove our garbage; it also recycles our holiday trees through a seasonal program in partnership with the Chicago Park District. It’s a win-win: Chicagoans can keep their trees out of the landfill, and the tree mulch gets reused in our communities! From Bessemer Park to Wentworth Park, drop your tree off at one of the 24 corrals across the city, and forestry crews will take care of the rest. Keep checking for updates on participating locations across the city.

Inexpensive tree pickup for a cause
For a small donation, Do The Right Thing! Recycling, a non-profit recycling awareness organization, will swing by your northside home and remove your tree—no fuss, no muss. The fee is $25 for in-home pickup or leave your tree curbside for $15. Visit to schedule an appointment.

Full service delivery & pickup
Make a note for next year, tree buyers. City Tree Delivery will not only deliver your tree and set it up in your home, but they will come and get it when the season is over. This organization makes the holidays green by offering locally harvested products; donating a portion of all proceeds to local schools, parks and other green charities; and by recycling trees after use. It’s easy to be eco-friendly with sustainable organizations like this one. Visit to learn more or pop by their lots, located at 1531 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown and 4100 N. Damen Ave. in North Center.


Christmas light recycling programs that care
SCARCE: Inspiring People to Care for the Earth, in tandem with Elgin Recycling, collects broken, burned out and used holiday lights, all over the western ‘burbs. Visit for the long list of participating locations.

Do you live in the north ‘burbs? Elgin Recycling offers free holiday light recycling at various locations across the area.

Heading West, holiday lights can be dropped for recycling at the Public Works Service Center (180 Fort Hill Dr., Naperville) Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-4 p.m. through March 29, 2019.  They also have a drop-off box located in Naperville’s Municipal Center (400 S. Eagle St.).

If none of these options are convenient for you, check your city’s Department of Public Works website for more local information. And, now that you know where to recycle the decorations, check out our story on Where to Donate Your Gently Used Toys & Books.

— Wendy Altschuler & Maria Chambers


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