Hundreds donate Christmas trees to be turned into mulch

LAWRENCEVILLE - Joe Neely headed to the Home Depot on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road Saturday morning to buy a ladder so he could pull Christmas lights off the trees in his front yard.

When he came back to the store that afternoon, Neely brought a tree with him.

Neely and hundreds of other Gwinnett County residents have recycled their Christmas trees this holiday season at Home Depots and fire stations across the county.

"I saw the trees here this morning," Neely said, heaving the tree from his car's roof-rack. "It's better to recycle. It's a no-brainer. It's done, it's easy, no problem."

At one store, more than 100 trees lay in a heaping pile in the parking lot, some with fake snow or tinsel still in their boughs.

Christmas trees can still be recycled through Friday, and though Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Executive Director Connie Wiggins said she did not know how many had already been collected, she expected Gwinnett residents to donate between 75,000 and 80,000 trees.

Last year, 70,000 trees were recycled through the program, called Bring One for the Chipper, which transforms the trees into mulch.

This year, the mulching event will be held Jan. 20 at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center and mulch created then will be used at the center and at schools and parks throughout the county.

Wiggins said recycling the trees keeps them out of landfills, where they take up as much room as a washing machine box. But only real trees can be recycled, and all ornaments and lights must be removed before a tree can go into the chipper.

Wiggins, who said she has seven trees in her house each Christmas, recycled the only live one last weekend.

Lisa Limbaugh, a Lawrenceville resident who pulled her tree from the trunk of her car, said she's been recycling her Tannenbaum since the program started 20 years ago.

"It's the best thing to do with it," she said. "It's giving back to nature."

Dacula resident Michelle Carr, who had four girls in her van as she helped pull the tree off its roof, said she thinks watching her recycle will teach her children responsibility. They nodded in agreement.

For David Cheetham, of Lawrenceville, his days as a Boy Scout prompted him to bring his tree to the Home Depot parking lot. He's known the value of trees since then, Cheetham said, and chose a day with temperatures in the 70s to lug the Christmas symbol to the store.

Lawrenceville resident Jim Lockhart said he's been recycling as long as he can remember, and Todd Bonsack, who has brought his tree in for five years, said it's just something he feels like he should do.

"It's like taking out the trash," he said. "It's just something that should be done."