Recycled Christmas trees raise £175,000 in the West

Volunteer in front of a large van with a Christmas tree
Image caption,Dorothy House Hospice raised around £75,000 from last Christmas’s recycling scheme

By Sophie Parker

BBC News, Wiltshire

Christmas tree recycling schemes are proving a lucrative fundraiser for West charities.

Organisation Just Helping, which partners with charities to help bring efforts together, said those who work with them made £174,988 in January.

Across Wiltshire, Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire, it adds up to more than 12,500 trees collected.

Dorothy House Hospice – based near Bradford-on-Avon – made the most in the region at £75,000.

Tom Laverty from Just Helping explained that they “provide charities with a registration platform and routing.”

More than £930,000 was raised nationally during the last drive after Christmas 2022.

Dorothy House covers 17 postcodes across Wiltshire, Somerset and the Bath area.

When the charity started its scheme in 2017 it raised a total of £6,500 altogether but after opening the drive for this Christmas, it had raised that amount within one day of opening bookings.

Two volunteers with a tree each in front of a van, smiling at the camera
Image caption,There are around 200 volunteers who help with the collection drive every year – including collectors themselves, chippers and admin

They now get around 200 volunteers each year and it is all organised by Steph Cox, who said: “I’m a very competitive person and absolutely want to smash it again in January 2024.”

She said they picked up more than 5,000 trees in January 2023.

To get it started a few years ago, she had to find a lot of people: “I just basically cold contacted people like tree surgeons, landscape gardeners, and all of those kind of people.

“Year on year, I can email the database of people that have helped and just say same again.”

‘It’s competitive’

She explained that volunteers do engage in some friendly competition: “It’s competitive in that people want to get as many trees in their van as possible or get their route done first, and be able to go for a pint afterwards.”

They compare which group can get “the best prize or the best box of chocolates”, with one having three on one route in the Warminster area.

Man wearing protective gear next to a bright orange chipper and a big pile of chippings
Image caption,Dorothy House finds people to chip the trees all over their area

Each charity has different relationships locally with where trees go.

There is an environmental aspect too – Mr Laverty said gas gets released when trees go into landfill: “On average, an 8ft Christmas tree is estimated to release 16 kilos of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

For Dorothy House, Ms Cox said the local agricultural college is one place they work with: “They organise to have a chipper brought over, and then they educate the students on how to use it.

“Then the chippings are used on the lands around there.

“It’s used for pathways, where tractors go in and out of fields, along parklands and for animal bedding. We have got a number of chippers across the patch.”

Some of those who book slots donate more cash than expected, often for the smallest of trees

“There was a lady that donated £40 for her tree, and my collector just couldn’t find it anywhere,” she said.

“They went and knocked on the door. She just comes out with this little potted tree.

“She donated because of the cause and it didn’t matter how big her tree was.”

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