How to get rid of your Christmas tree in Switzerland

How to get rid of your Christmas tree in Switzerland

It’s a sad part of the Christmas tradition, but at some point in January, you will have to store your baubles, lights and tinsel for another year and start to consider how you will get rid of your Christmas tree. Here’s how you can dispose of your Christmas tree in Switzerland, without getting an unwelcome post-holiday present from the police.

When do people in Switzerland get rid of their Christmas trees?

Starting with the thorny issue of when to dispose of your Christmas tree. In Switzerland, most families and households take their trees down on Epiphany. This is 12 days from Christmas Day, which is January 6. 

However, many families also choose to continue with their Christmas trees long after Epiphany - some Catholic households keep their trees up until February 2 to celebrate Mary Candlemas. However, generally speaking, most Christmas trees have been taken down by the last week of January.

Getting rid of your Christmas tree in Switzerland

If you feel like the last of the festive embers are out and that it’s time to get rid of your Christmas tree, here are some of the rules to follow in Switzerland.

Do Swiss towns and cities get rid of Christmas trees for free?

How you can get rid of your Christmas tree usually depends on your local council. The vast majority of local authorities in Switzerland run a free Christmas tree collection service during the month of January. 

It could be useful to talk to your neighbours to ask whether the local area has a tree collection service. However, the easiest way to tell whether your municipality has such a scheme is to check the rubbish collection calendar which is sent through the post every year - some councils also post this information online.

These calendars should specify which days the service is available and whether any special rules have to be followed. While collection times will vary, most have their collection services in the days following Epiphany on January 6.

How should I prepare my tree for collection in Switzerland?

Typically, local authorities in Switzerland ask that the Christmas tree be placed, without decorations, on the side of the street next to your green and silver bins. This should be done on the evening before or early morning of the day of collection. Some authorities also have size and weight restrictions or request that the tree be cut to a certain height or bound before it can be collected.

Getting rid of a Christmas tree in Zurich

In Zurich, the authorities will collect your tree for free during any of the household waste collection days in January. They request that the branches be bound, and the tree cut to 1,5 metres and placed next to your bins or next to any Zürisack collection point.

From there, the trees are sent to a local power plant to be turned into electricity.

How do I get rid of my Christmas tree in Geneva?

Free Christmas tree collections in Geneva also run throughout January. Residents of the city are allowed to deposit their decoration-less tree (of any size) at any of the household waste deposit points.

The trees must be present at the deposit point between 7pm on the day before the collection and 6am on the day of collection. Collection days are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Christmas tree collections in Basel

Basel also offers free Christmas tree collections until the end of January. Any tree shorter than two metres can be placed on the side of the road between 7pm the evening before and 7am the morning of the official collection days (which vary by district). Any trees above two metres tall must be shredded.

What’s more, Basel residents can also take their tree to one of 10 drop-off points between January 2 and January 12. These donations will then be converted into environmentally friendly biochar free of charge. You can find out their location using the official website.

Lausanne Christmas tree collections

Undecorated Christmas trees can be collected at any time of year in Lausanne. Simply place the tree in or next to your organic waste container, and the authorities will collect your tree free of charge.

When can I get rid of my Christmas tree in Bern?

Finally, the Bernese authorities will allow you to get rid of your Christmas tree for free during January, so long as it is less than two metres tall. Simply place your undecorated tree next to your green collection bin. 

Be sure to place the tree next to the bin by 7am on the day of collection. This varies depending on which district (Kreis) of Bern you live in.

Using the green bin to get rid of Christmas trees

If you have missed the free Christmas tree collections, the next step would be to put your tree in the standard green bin. However, once again, local restrictions apply as to whether this can be done.

For instance, some councils will specify the length and width the pieces have to be to be accepted, so you may be at the hacksaw for quite a while. Be sure to check the collection dates and specific requirements with your local council before chucking the tree in the bin.

Are Christmas trees compostable?

If you happen to own a compost heap, you can chop up your tree and compost it yourself. However, do bear in mind that Christmas trees will not dissolve at the same rate as regular compost due to the chemicals that the tree is treated with.

Can I throw my Christmas tree in the rubbish?

The final permissible method also happens to be the most sure-fire (and most expensive): throwing away your Christmas tree in the regular rubbish. This will require you to cut the tree and package the plant in the bin bags provided by your local council.

Considering how much councils can charge for bin bags, this is by far the most expensive method on the list.

How not to get rid of your Christmas tree in Switzerland

While we are talking about ways you are allowed to get rid of a Christmas tree in Switzerland, it’s also important to mention what you can’t do. First, as logical as it may sound, you are not able to dispose of your Christmas tree in a forest. This is because of the aforementioned chemicals that are used to treat the trees. As a result, Christmas trees are considered regular rubbish and any attempt to chuck the tree in a wood would be considered fly-tipping.

You are also not allowed to burn your Christmas tree, as the wood and needles are usually too wet, causing heavy smoke and damaging the environment. Several Swiss cantons have banned the practice, meaning anyone caught burning their tree could soon have a visit from the police and face criminal charges.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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