Dubai: Christmas trees have been part of the celebrations at Christian households for ages. But putting up decorated Xmas trees is also a holiday tradition across the malls, hotels and other public places as well as households belonging to people of different faiths in the UAE.
What happens to these trees after the Christmas festivities?
Residents, retailers and hotels have shared with Gulf News how they recycle, reuse and repurpose the real and synthetic trees after the season.
Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down following the ‘Twelfth Night” after Christmas.
Leo Rodrigues, who was recently featured by Gulf News for setting up a miniature Christmas village at home for seven years, said the synthetic trees at households are generally packed and kept for the next season. “People continue to use the same trees with different decorations for years,” he said.
Residents living in areas not served by community developers can seek the bulk waste collection service by Dubai Municipality for disposing of their large real trees.
Hisham Wyne, whose family has the tradition of buying a real fir tree to adorn their home for Christmas, said they call for the collection service by a third party that recycles the trees.
“There is a charge for it, but we want to make sure we get rid of the tree in an environmentally safe way. It is a large tree and if it can be reused, why not?” he said.
A resident of Palm Jumeirah, who buys a Denmark tree every year for Christmas, said she paid Dh120 for disposing of her 9ft tree last year.
Retailers supporting recycling
Apart from the municipality and waste management companies that provide recycling services, residents can return the trees to some retailers that accept the trees for recycling as well.
Fresh produce suppliers Kibsons provides a collection service for Christmas tree recycling. “We are accepting trees bought from us and others for collection and recycling. Customers can access the tree collection service through the ‘Return & Recycle Services’ section of the ‘My Accounts’ page. Only Dh1 is charged for the service with a minimum order of Dh30. We pick it up from customers’ places,” said a call centre representative of Kibsons.
Both Spinneys and Waitrose supermarkets have been running a free Christmas tree recycling service.
“This year, we have partnered with Al Ma Organic Fertiliser Industries and Recycling to make compost from Christmas trees. Customers who bought real Christmas trees from us can return undecorated natural trees to any of our stores across the UAE by January 15. The trees will be sent to Al Ma’s organic waste composting facility to be composted to create fertilizer for local farms,” said Warwick Gird, general manager, Marketing at Spinneys Dubai.
He said the campaign is in its fifth year this time.
What do hotels do?
Narendra Pargaonkar, multi property director of Engineering at St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, said the luxury resort and spa reuses the Christmas trees, ornaments and lights.
“It is part of our commitment to sustainability and reducing waste. Instead of throwing them out, we carefully store and maintain these decorations, bringing them out for the holiday season annually. It is a great way to maintain tradition while being environmentally conscious.”
Artificial trees, when well-maintained and reused over multiple years, can have a lower environmental impact compared to real trees, he pointed out. “They eliminate the need for continuous harvesting of live trees, reducing deforestation and carbon emissions associated with transportation and disposal. Additionally, these artificial trees can be adorned and reused annually, minimising waste and promoting an eco-friendly approach to holiday traditions,” added Pargaonkar.
Dubai resident Sherin Bodekji, who runs nature-inspired playgroup ‘Natura Tribe,’ is someone who accepts real Christmas tree for sustainable disposal.
“I promote Christmas tree collection service on social media, encouraging people who would like to extend the use of their trees. Last year, I personally picked up 25 trees, but it was time-consuming, so this time I am requesting community leaders to coordinate the collection and get the trees delivered to my place.”
Bodekji said the trees serve various purposes, from keeping wood for projects and tent-building to using dry branches and needles for compost.
“I conduct nature workshops with children, utilising pine needles from Christmas trees nature crafts. I teach kids how to create natural whisks. The handmade wooden whisks release a pleasant scent. I also use the trees to decorate the private park where I run educational programmes. They look and smell amazing.”
“Some people chop the trees into small parts and send. I use them for decoration at my events or for desert fires. The wood is good as firewood. It is better than store-bought charcoal. Some wood is also used for fire safety workshops to teach lifesaving skills,” she added.
Another option for people to use the real trees is to shred them into mulch to spread on their gardens.