A plastic Christmas tree may be more eco-friendly than real trees in the UAE

December 24, 2015 0 By Amanda Giasson

Real Christmas trees may result in more carbon emissions.

Although a real Christmas tree are often thought to be more environmentally friendly than the plastic alternative, due to their recyclability, UAE (United Arab Emirates) scientists say that in the UAE, real trees actually have a bigger carbon footprint than plastic trees. The reason is once the real trees are removed from nature, they are no longer collecting carbon. Furthermore, the shipping for real trees from Canada to the UAE takes twice as long as plastic ones imported from China, reported The National.

Trees collect and also store carbon dioxide they capture from the air.

According to Ahmed Al Hashmi, the UAE director of biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment and Water, “All trees offset carbon because through photosynthesis the biochemical process combines sunlight, water and carbon dioxide absorbed from the air.”

A report from the UK Forestry Commission revealed that trees store as much as 0.5 kilograms (just over one pound) of carbon annually, which is about equal to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of carbon dioxide.Christmas Tree - Carbon Emissions

Furthermore, the most common real Christmas tree is the Douglas fir. The average height of the trees when they are cut measure 2 meters (6.5 feet), which makes them roughly 10 years old. However, according to the National Wildlife Federation, the typical lifespan of this tree species is over 500 years and can even be as long as 1,000 years. What this means is that an average of nearly 1,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide is not being trapped for each of these trees that are cut down.

One family reusing a plastic Christmas tree each year in the UAE could prevent 900 kilograms of CO2 emissions.

A survey that was conducted by The National found that for every ten plastic Christmas trees sold in the UAE, nine of these trees were imported from China. According to a 2006 report published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1 kilogram of plastic produced as much as 6 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Therefore, since the average plastic tree is 2 meters high and weighs about 5 kilograms, this would mean that one plastic tree produces approximately 25 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

When factoring in the distance the tree would have to travel to ship from China to the UAE, it would cost about 0.75 kilograms in carbon dioxide to ship one tree. On the other hand, a real tree shipped from Canada to the UAE, which is about twice the distance compared to China, costs an estimated 1 kilogram in CO2.

That being said, shipping aside, real trees are still more eco-friendly when it comes time for disposal. Real trees decompose naturally, whereas the disposal of a plastic tree usually involves incineration, which, for a 2 meter plastic tree, would result in 10 kilograms of CO2.

Nonetheless, if just one family in the UAE reused a plastic Christmas tree each year, they could save the environment nearly 900 kilograms of carbon dioxide, annually. That’s definitely something to think about for those seeking to make their Christmas greener.