It wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree, but which is more sustainable – a real tree or a plastic one?
You might expect anything plastic to be the least environmentally friendly option. It’s true that manufacturing plastic trees consumes a lot of energy, and so does shipping them to the UK from where they’re commonly manufactured – China, for example. Although you can use a plastic tree for many years, most aren’t recyclable and still end up in landfill.
However, real trees aren’t necessarily the greener option. The UK uses as many as 8 million natural Christmas trees each year and sadly, about 7 million of these are discarded. The other million are mainly used as compost, though many people avoid this on the assumption that the low pH of pine needles (between 3.2 and 3.8) will make the soil acidic.
Christmas trees such as the Norway spruce and Nordmann fir have hundreds of thousands of pine needles which take a long time to decompose compared to other tree leaves. When they rot, they emit huge quantities of greenhouse gases.
According to the Carbon Trust, the carbon footprint of a 2m-tall real Christmas tree is equivalent to 16kg of CO2 if it ends up in landfill. That’s 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from the 7 million trees that end up languishing in landfills every year.
Waste removal in London, Hertfordshire and the home counties