Back to the earth
Tree recycling program has many locations

SUWANEE - Suwanee resident Mike LaPlante took his Christmas tree to Sims Lake Park on Tuesday.

Suwanee's newest park is serving as the city's collection site for evergreens, which will be recycled and turned into mulch through Keep Georgia Beautiful's Bring One for the Chipper program.

"I live right next door," LaPlante said, noting the convenience of the city's new drop-off site. "I don't have to try to find a location this year."

Although the collection at Sims Lake Park ends Saturday, Gwinnettians can recycle their former Christmas trees at nearly 30 locations until Jan. 19.

"Most trees come in after Jan. 1 because most people leave their trees up until New Year's Day," said Connie Wiggins, executive director of Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful.

Gwinnett County residents are encouraged to recycle their Christmas trees, stripped of decorations and lights, at one of the designated drop-off sites. Artificial trees will not be accepted.

"In addition to providing an easy and environmentally conscious tree disposal solution for residents, recycled trees will be put to good use through the creation of valuable mulch," a Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful news release states. "Most of the mulch will be used to help beautify Gwinnett County parks. Precious landfill space will also be saved as the average Christmas tree weighs 20 pounds and fills up almost as much landfill space as a washing machine."

Most of the drop-off sites are fire stations. The stations selected as collection sites have facilities that can accommodate large stacks of trees, said Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge.

Residents are asked not to drop off trees at a fire station not listed as a tree drop-off site, Rutledge said. Selected locations are listed on Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful's Web site, www.gwinnettcb.org.

The number of trees recycled so far was not available Tuesday, but the nonprofit organization estimates it has collected more than 1 million Christmas trees since the program began in Gwinnett County in 1984. More than 75,000 trees were recycled last year, but fewer are expected this year because of the current economy.

Staff photographer Jonathan Phillips contributed to this report.