It's time to recycle live Christmas trees

Liz Marino/Douglas County Sentinel Keep Douglasville Beautiful Executive Director Chan Weeks stands along the side of The Home Depot parking lot, where people are already dropping off their live Christmas trees for the chipper. "Bring One for the Chipper," the state's annual Christmas tree recycling program, will be cranking up the chipper to make mulch on Saturday, Jan. 6 at The Home Depot on Douglas Boulevard. Christmas trees may also be dropped off at The Home Depot in Lithia Springs.

Christmas may be over, but don’t just throw out your live Christmas tree: recycle it.

There are several ways the community can share the lingering spirit of Christmas to help the environment in Douglas County by turning this year's tannenbaum into a useful and lasting gift.

“Bring One for the Chipper,” the state’s annual Christmas tree recycling program, will be cranking up the chipper on Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Home Depot location on Douglas Boulevard in Douglasville and at 1000 Thornton Road in Lithia Springs.

The event is sponsored by Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation, The Home Depot, WXIA 11-Alive, The Davey Tree Company, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Ferry-Morse Seed Company and the Burpee Seed Company.

According to Chan Weeks, executive director of Keep Douglasville Beautiful, the annual event at the Douglasville Home Depot will be manned by volunteers on Jan. 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in order to assist those who require a little assistance in unloading their tree.

As an added bonus, people who drop off their live Christmas trees during those hours will get a tree seedling to plant from the Georgia Forestry Commission.

“We are proud to be hosting Bring One for the Chipper again this year,” said Weeks. “This will be our 16th year to hold the state-wide event locally. Trees are already being dropped off and can continue to be through Jan. 6. For those who bring their tree on January 6, you will receive a free redbud, dogwood or white oak sapling while supplies last.”

“The Bring One for the Chipper program allows Christmas trees to be recycled into mulch that can then be used in playgrounds, parks and green spaces throughout the community,” Weeks said. “The mulch is available free to residents and can picked up the day of the event or by calling Keep Douglasville Beautiful after the event.”

Landfill recycling trees

The Douglas County Landfill and Recycling Center, located at 1730 County Services Road off Cedar Mountain Road in Douglasville, will also be accepting live Christmas trees now through the end of January, according to Gary Jenkins, director of the county’s landfill, solid waste and recycling.

Jenkins said, “We’ve been taking in live Christmas trees with the lights and ornaments removed, of course, for at least 17 years.

He said they chip the trees up and allow the public to obtain woodchips free of charge if they load them themselves.

In exchange for a recycled Christmas tree at the landfill, residents may select a free package of flower or vegetable seeds from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

He also said that residents may also obtain intact trees to be used in lakes for fish habitats.

The Douglas County Landfill and Recycling Center will be closed for the New Year’s Day holiday on Monday, Jan. 1, but will reopen Tuesday, Jan. 2 at 8 a.m. The facility is open until 5 p.m. The landfill will also be closed on Jan. 15 in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. The landfill is closed on Sundays.

In addition to recycling Christmas trees, the recycling center also accepts all forms of mixed paper and cardboard, so Jenkins encourages residents to recycle their Christmas boxes and wrapping paper. There is no charge for bringing recyclable items only to the county’s recycling center.

Jenkins said that some years they have received 200 to 300 Christmas trees to be recycled at the county’s recycling center each year.

Trees used as fish habitats at Sweetwater

Sweetwater Creek State Park will also be collecting live Christmas trees for recycling this now through Jan. 16. According to Assistant Park Manager Royce Johnson, visitors can help the fish population by dropping off donations of Christmas trees near the state park’s bait shop. Sweetwater Creek States Park is located at 1750 Mount Vernon Rd. in Lithia Springs.

Unlike the Christmas trees used for mulch, these trees will not go into the chipper, said Johnson. Instead, they will be reused in the George Sparks Reservoir within the state park to provide habitats for fish who make their home in the lake.

He said that as of Friday, some 60 Christmas trees have already been collected, and more are needed for provide cover for the state park's fish population.

"We plan to sink them in the lake and help with the fish population," Johnson said. "It creates cover for the fish; we will sink several trees together. The trees benefit us by creating more fish habitats, so they can have cover and survive to grow bigger and healthier."

Keeping Georgia beautiful

Bring One for the Chipper has collected over 6 million trees for beneficial use since 1991, according to Keep Georgia Beautiful (KGB). The program is celebrating its 27th year in Georgia.

“We are excited to celebrate over 25 years of tree recycling in Georgia. Bring One for the Chipper is the perfect opportunity to start the year off right by making a simple choice that benefits the environment. Easy, everyday choices are the key to keeping our communities beautiful." said Natalie Johnston-Russell, executive director of the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation.

According to KGB, Christmas tree recycling programs like Chipper support eco-friendly holiday efforts that have a great influence.

The National Christmas Tree Association states that 98 percent of real Christmas trees are grown on farms throughout all 50 states and Canada and that real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that real Christmas trees are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop. To ensure a constant supply, Christmas Tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree they harvest.

While they're growing, real Christmas trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen. The farms that grow Christmas trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soil that doesn't support other crops.

On the other hand, the National Christmas Tree Association reports that artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses an artificial tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.

"Chipper gives the whole family the opportunity to participate in environmental stewardship. Dropping off the tree for recycling has become a family tradition and it's rewarding to see people come back year after year." said Johnston-Russell.

Since its inception, the Chipper program has recycled an estimated 6 million Christmas trees. The mulch from these trees has been used for playgrounds, local government beautification projects and individual yards.

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