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"Giving back to nature'
Event turns 50,000 donated Christmas trees into mulch

LAWRENCEVILLE - Chris Manza was wrapped up in the spirit of recycling Saturday - literally.

The 15-year-old draped a ring of discarded evergreen branches around his neck, wearing the creation as he volunteered at Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful's annual Bring One for the Chipper event at Rhodes Jordan Park.

"I love recycling," said Manza, who has attended the annual event since he was 9. "It saves the environment, and it saves trees."

About 50,000 discarded Christmas trees were chipped into mulch Saturday morning at the Lawrenceville park, said Connie Wiggins, executive director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. The mulch will be used to help beautify Gwinnett County parks.

Since 1984, the organization has encouraged residents to recycle the firs, spruces and pines instead of sending them to landfills. The average Christmas tree weighs 20 pounds and fills up almost as much landfill space as a washing machine.

"This is really a gift that people are giving back to nature after the holidays," Wiggins said.

About 80 volunteers, including many high school students, helped carry the trees to the chippers, donated by Georgia Power and Jackson Electric Membership Corporation, Wiggins said.

Meadowcreek High School senior Dionce Johnson volunteered to help at the event but didn't know he would be handling Christmas trees until he arrived at the park.

"I thought I was going to pick up trash and walk around the park," he said, "but I really did enjoy myself."

Johnson, who came to the event with members of his school's Key Club, said he plans to volunteer again at the annual event.

Ninth-grader Yocelinn Pavez was one of the volunteers from Central Gwinnett High, which sent members from its Key Club and Beta Club to the event.

"I thought it was fun, especially because we got to help the community out," she said. "It was hard work but fun at the same time."

Central Gwinnett senior Alonso Zubillaga also said the event

was fun.

"The scent of pine kinds of gives a cheery mood to everyone," he said.