By: Kelly Jackson, Chattanooga Times Free Press
DALTON, Ga. -- Recycling is the environmentally friendly way to bid farewell to the family Christmas tree, officials say.
"Bring One for the Chipper" is a statewide program sponsored by Keep Georgia Beautiful. Locations are designated throughout the state for people to recycle their Christmas trees, turning them into mulch.
Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful and the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority head up the program here.
"We are providing the service so that people can close the loop," said Liz Swafford, recycling and education program coordinator for the solid waste authority.
The big event is Jan. 9 at Home Depot, where a chipper will be turning Christmas trees into mulch, she said. Residents dropping off Christmas trees will receive a free redbud, dogwood, or crape myrtle tree seedling or vegetable, herb or wildflower seeds, she said.
"There's a lot of free gifts for the public, plus they'll have the option of getting mulch if they want," she said.
Live Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial ones because "Christmas trees are part of the sustainable farming industry," Ms. Swafford said.
Recycling the tree completes the Christmas tree's life cycle, she said.
Denise Wood, member of Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful, said the goal of the recycling program is to find "a beneficial use for the trees."
Recycled trees are mulched or may be used for other purposes. Some are kept whole so they can be placed in local lakes and ponds to improve fish habitat, said Ms. Wood.
Others may be used for erosion control, said Ms. Swafford.
Ms. Wood said its important to recycle Christmas trees because it "saves valuable landfill space."
Ms. Swafford said "just dumping it somewhere creates an imbalance in that little part of the ecosystem."
State regulations also prohibit the disposal of yard trimmings in municipal landfills, according to a news release.
Ms. Swafford said the annual "Bring One for the Chipper" event is more than 10 years old. Each year, an average of 700 trees are recycled in the area, she said.
Since the statewide program started in 1991, more than 4.8 million Christmas trees have been recycled, according to the Keep Georgia Beautiful Web site.
Local residents have the option of dropping off their trees at one of the county convenience centers, where yard debris is recycled into mulch throughout the year. City residents also can call for pick-up.
Tom Sawyer's Christmas Tree Farm in Glenville, N.C., sold trees this year in Chattanooga and Dalton. Mr. Sawyer said any leftover trees they have are turned into mulch because "it goes right back into Mother Nature."
IF YOU GO
* What: Bring One for the Chipper
* When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 9
* Where: Home Depot on Shugart Road
* What: Bring your live, undecorated Christmas tree to be recycled
* Cost: Free
OTHER WAYS TO RECYCLE
* The Dalton Public Works Department will collect trees from at the curbside. Residents should call 706-278-7077 for pick-up.
* All Whitfield County Convenience Centers (MLK, McGaughey Chapel and Westside) and the Old Dixie Highway Landfill have drop-off locations that accept and recycle yard debris throughout the year.
Source: Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority
ON THE WEB
* Visit www.keepgeorgiabeautiful.org to find a tree recycling location near you.