In city, trees recycled to spread holiday cheer

Christmas pines turned into mulch

January 07, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Pieces of tinsel cling to the branches as the pine tree is swallowed trunk-first by the large chipper.

After the trunk go the limbs that just hours ago supported delicate glass bulbs and precious family ornaments. In an instant the top, once crowned with a festive angel or a star, has disappeared into its unforgiving mechanical mouth. At the other end, the machine spits out the holiday centerpiece, converted into fragrant garden mulch.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Baltimore residents came to Polytechnic Institute on Cold Spring Lane, where the city's Public Works Department recycled Christmas trees and gave bags of the mulch produced by shredding a variety of holiday pines.

The smell of pine is intense, with a hint of citrus, like grapefruit, as the trees are mixed and diced into the dark green potpourri.

Ah, the smell.

"I really like a real tree because it brings the spirit in the house with the smell," said Vandy Murphy of West Baltimore.

Like many residents yesterday, Murphy said it doesn't feel like Christmas for him without a real pine tree.

For Barbara Treasure of Wyndhurst, the tree is an important part of her holiday celebration.

"It's a religious symbol - the tree that stays green in the middle of winter," she said. "Christmas is about the birth that gives hope in a life that is surrounded by death.

"Only a real tree is a real tree."

As Treasure and her 17- year-old son Thomas watched their family's tree get sucked into the chipper, she recalled her favorite ornaments with which it once was decorated: a red satin heart covered with tiny flowers and a reindeer that she called "elegant and abstract."

She said she plans to use the Christmas tree mulch to foster new life in her garden, where azaleas and rhododendron will blossom in the spring.

Karen Jones of Roland Park said she gets a real pine tree every year and always takes it to be converted into mulch.

"That's the way I justify getting the tree; because I know it will be recycled," she said.

The city has been running its Christmas tree recycling program for a decade, said program manager Cynthia Noel. Saturday, they shredded about 250 trees. Yesterday, more than 100 went through the chipper halfway through the collection period. Leftover mulch will be used on city grounds and parks.

Often, people ask to have the mulch that came from their tree because they liked it so much - a task the Public Works employees who shovel the pine mulch into large garbage bags have a hard time fulfilling.

But Noel, who recycled her tree - which was decorated in white, red and gold silk poinsettias with an angel that belonged to her mother on top - understands the feeling.

"They love that tree, it was the best tree they ever had," she said.

Karen Renneberg, a resident of Original Northwood, said she plans to use the mulch she picked up to extend the Christmas spirit a little longer.

"I put it by my front porch, so every day I come in, I can smell that Christmas tree smell," she said. "I even take a little bag and put in my car."

The city will also collect Christmas trees curbside through Feb. 2 to recycle into mulch. Trees should be placed in the same location as trash by 7 a.m. and will be collected on the second collection day of the week.

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