As Cleveland revelers turn the page on holiday tunes from “Jingle Bells” and “Auld Lang Syne” to “Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over,” so goes the life of another seasonal favorite — the sparkling, blinking and aromatic Christmas tree.
Some Bradley County households began their evergreen adieus as early as Dec. 26 and others are reluctantly taking down the symbols of merriment only now as 2014 steps into front doors with a message of promise and an appeal for hope.
And with that plea for sunshine comes another sign of change — recycling.
At Christmastime in Cleveland, the familiar urge of “waste not, want not” is best summarized as Chipping of the Green.
Launched the day after Christmas, the annual campaign to recycle discarded evergreens by chipping them into decorative and nose-pleasing mulch continues through Saturday, Jan. 11.
As in past years — 20 years to be exact — Chipping of the Green remains a three-way partnership between Santek Waste Services, the Bradley County Road Department and the Bradley County Mayor’s Office.
But this year, as confirmed by Cheryl Dunson, Santek vice president of marketing, a fourth partner has come on board. And it’s not just any partner. It’s a corporate partner, one that knows a lot about Christmas trees, how to care for them, when to sell them and perhaps most importantly, how to give the unclaimed foliage a ceremonious farewell.
Chipping of the Green’s newest ally is The Home Depot, thanks to the forward-thinking ways of store manager Darrell Pinegar who contacted Dunson earlier this week about joining Santek’s recycling cause.
Pinegar’s challenge on the retail floor was the proper disposal of unsold Christmas trees — some 100 of them. When he learned of the annual “Chipping” initiative — Pinegar is new to the Cleveland store — he immediately dialed up Santek.
“Darrell is relatively new as the store manager at The Home Depot in Cleveland,” Dunson said. “He had managed The Home Depot location in Dalton (Ga.), and there they had worked closely with the solid waste authority on Christmas tree recycling. When he heard about our program here, his first thought was to partner with Santek.”
Dunson credited Pinegar with taking the same attitude — on a retail level — that she encourages among individual households; that is, not to toss discarded trees to the curb and wait for them to be picked up by a refuse collection service and hauled away to an awaiting landfill. Rather, the idea is to make them available to Chipping of the Green either by taking them to a Bradley County recycling center or straight to the local landfill near McDonald where they will be ground into mulch compliments of a chipper provided by the Road Department.
Chipping of the Green comes full circle — at least, the Christmas trees do — when the pile of mulch is made available free of charge to Cleveland and Bradley County residents who want it for their gardens or landscaping.
It’s a familiar theme used by Santek to promote the Chipping initiative. In Dunson’s words used in promotional materials, “Begin the new year on environmentally sound ground and turn old Christmas trees into reusable mulch.”
On a personal note, Dunson points to the value of recycling evergreens that have reached the end of their cycle of life.
“Recycling your Christmas tree is probably the easiest product to recycle,” the Santek spokesperson explained. “They don’t require any advanced preparation — except for the removal of decorations — and most people throw them away at the end of the holiday season. So, instead of putting them in the trash or in a burn pile, we’re encouraging everyone to bring trees to one of our collection points and feel good about turning them into a valuable resource.”
That’s where The Home Depot, as a new Chipping partner, again enters the scene.
Not only is the popular home improvements store handing over its unsold evergreens this year, Pinegar has volunteered the store as a fourth collection point for Chipping of the Green next year. The Home Depot will join Bradley County’s two recycling centers and the landfill as dropoff points for discarded trees that are facing a date with the Road Department chipper. But that’s next year.
This year, area residents still have three sites for dropping off their evergreens. These include:
1. Bradley County Landfill: Hours are 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
2. Urbane Road Recycling Center: Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
3. Peerless Road Recycling Center: Hours are 1 to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Area residents wanting to drop off their evergreens at the recycling centers aren’t restricted to operating hours. They can just leave their Christmas trees outside the locked gates if they’re delivering during nonoperating hours.
Like Dunson, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis urged area residents to give their discarded Christmas trees the gift of new life.
“Ideally, we want everyone to visit the centers when they’re open, but we also recognize Christmas trees don’t make a great mess like other recyclable items,” Davis said. “Just drop trees outside the gate and we’ll ensure they get recycled.”
Dunson said until The Home Depot donation, the landfill had received — so far — only a few discarded Christmas trees. She didn’t have a count on the numbers at the recycling centers because they are normally hauled to the landfill only after the Jan. 11 dropoff deadline.
She said the outpouring of used trees is expected to pick up now that New Year’s Day has come and gone, and more area residents are dismantling their holiday decorations.
Dunson praised The Home Depot, and its store manager, for their commitment to recycling and for next year’s pledge to serve as a fourth collection point for Chipping of the Green.
“We got a late start this year on the partnership with The Home Depot,” Dunson said. “But next year, they’ll not only give us the Christmas trees they don’t sell, but they’ll also serve as a collection point for us.”
Santek has already picked up the stock of unclaimed trees at the Huff Parkway store. The landfill operator provided the truck and trailer, and The Home Depot employees did the loading. The trees are in their final resting place near the landfill convenience center where they’ll be chipped.
Dunson said the project has access to the Road Department chipper only on Fridays and Saturdays, so that’s when piles of Christmas trees are ground up and made available to area residents.
Mulch-loving folks need only to bring their trucks or trailers to the front of the landfill near the convenience center. That’s where recycling activities take place, and that’s where they can claim the evergreen mulch.
Additional information about Chipping of the Green or Bradley County’s recycling efforts may be obtained by contacting Dunson at 303-7107.