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Recycle that tree
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It’s Christmas Day, and that pine tree in the corner of the room is already looking dried-out and tired.

Now you’re thinking maybe it wasn’t such a smart idea to put the tree next to the heating ducts. And you’re thinking, "How do I get rid of this thing before it becomes a fire hazard?"

If you’re a Gainesville resident, the solution is easy: Just drag old Tannenbaum out to the curb. The city will pick it up along with your regular household trash. But the tree has to be stripped naked first.

"Make sure all the lights and ornaments are off," said James Mattox, assistant superintendent of solid waste for Gainesville. "It makes extra work for us if we have to take all that stuff off."

The trees must be unadorned because, by state law, they cannot be thrown into a municipal landfill. So the city grinds them up into mulch. But if there’s anything metal or plastic on the tree, it could damage the machinery.

"We go around with a chipper truck and chip them on site, or if we have too many we put them in a truck and chip them at the shop (on Alta Vista Road)," Mattox said. "Then we pile up (the mulch) at Alta Vista and people can come get it for free between about 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. (weekdays)."

For county residents who do not have trash pickup service, disposing of a tree takes a bit more effort. You’ll have to load it into a vehicle and drop it off at the Hall County Recycling Center, 1008 Chestnut Street, or at any of the county’s 13 trash compactor sites.

Rick Foote, natural resources coordinator for Hall County, said just as with any type of waste, trees should be dropped off only when the compactor sites are staffed, and not dumped outside the gates.

"Trees will be chipped at the compactor sites by the road maintenance department, then brought back to the recycling center to be given out as mulch," he said.

Though trees may be dropped off any day, people who wait until Jan. 5 may get a little bonus. The first Saturday in January marks the statewide "Bring One for the Chipper" event.

Participating communities receive tree seedlings from the Georgia Forestry Commission, to be given out to each person who drops off a Christmas tree on Jan. 5, while supplies last.

"We’re going to be getting about 1,700 white flowering dogwoods," Foote said. "They will be available at all the compactor sites, and it’s first come, first served."

Other types of decorative greenery, such as pine boughs used for garlands, can also be recycled. But the same rules apply as for trees: Everything must be natural.

"If you have a wreath, make sure it doesn’t have metal in it before you try to recycle it," Foote said.