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Old trees can be recycled after holidays

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Once again, residents are urged to "Bring One For the Chipper" and recycle their old Christmas trees.

The live trees may be brought to the Henry County Recycling Center, at 65 West Asbury Road in McDonough, Jan. 5-17, between 8 a.m., and 4 p.m.

Trees will be accepted Monday through Saturday.

Those bringing trees to recycle will get a free tree seedling in exchange for recycling the old trees into landscaping mulch. The mulch is also free, although anyone interested in picking up some, must load it themselves.

In the past, residents have been able to drop off old trees at their nearest Home Depot store, but this year, fewer locations are accepting them.

Scott Lester, a manager for Home Depot in McDonough, said any customers showing up at the store with a tree to recycle will be directed to the recycling center.

Owners of tree farms in Henry, who sold Christmas trees this holiday season, had their own ideas on what to do with them.

Jim Butler, who owns Homestead Christmas Tree Farm and Nursery in Hampton, said last year, the Home Depot stores and Lovejoy High School accepted trees for recycling. The city park also accepted trees after Christmas, and the City of Hampton arranged for a chipper to be at the park to grind up the trees. This year, the choices for where to take old Christmas trees for recycling have not been publicized.

Recycling the old trees is an important part of being environmentally friendly, Butler said. "You don't want to put them into the landfills," he told of a couple, who returned their Christmas tree to his farm one year. He accepted the tree and ground it up for mulch.

Butler said he has trees on his lot he trims back in the winter as needed. When he does so, he hires someone with a shredder who grinds the limbs up into chips. "I have a huge pile of wood chips here. I use it to make potting soil," he added.

In order to make potting soil, he said, the chips must be mixed with vermiculite and set aside for five or six years before they can be used.

Jim Smith, owner of Sugarland Tree Farm in Stockbridge, advises customers to take their Christmas trees directly to the recycling center. "It's kind of left up to people's imaginations," said Smith.

In the past, he has taken the unsold Christmas trees left over on the lot to lake Oconee and dumped them into the lake, to make an artificial reef. The trees can be sunk into cement in a five-gallon bucket, and the weight of each one will cause it to sink to the bottom, he said.

The concrete does not pollute the water, Smith explained, and the trees last for four to five years. "It provides a fish habitat. It's what fish hang out around in the summer."

He added that burning the old trees is not a good option, because it is bad for air quality. But in January and February each year, he cuts down most of the remaining Christmas trees on the lot, and grinds them up for mulch.