A HOSPICE has been given a much-needed boost to its funds after recycling more than 1,700 Christmas trees.

Hundreds of Darlington residents donated a total of £9,000 to the hospice in return for their discarded trees being collected and recycled into garden fertiliser at Darlington Borough Council’s waste disposal centre.

An army of 70 volunteers from Darlington Rotary Club, equipped with 22 large vans, toured local streets on January 5.

They removed trees from homes which had registered for the service, with homeowners donating a minimum £5 for the service.

Rotary Club organiser David Hayward said: “This is the ninth year we have carried out this useful community service venture and the 1,730 trees we collected was by far a record number.

“All the funds raised go to the hospice as the vans, and our operating base, were all kindly loaned by local businesses.”

The operation was run from Darlington’s Drive Vauxhall garage and co-hosted by its previous owner, Sherwood chairman Alasdair MacConachie.

The collectors’ vans were borrowed from Drive and the borough council as well as rental companies Enterprise and Charter van hire.

The trees were recycled by waste specialists the John Wade Group and much-needed refreshments for volunteers were supplied by Darlington butcher Taylor & Sons.

Mr Hayward said: “Our teams were so enthusiastic that we collected dozens of extra trees from homeowners we met on the streets, and even some trees we found just lying around.

“The generosity of Darlington residents and businesses was overwhelming and the Rotary club is very proud to be part of such a fantastic community.

“We hope to be back next Christmas to collect even more trees.”

The appeal has grown since last year, after the Rotary Club collected 1,132 trees.

To publicise the campaign, almost 3,000 trees on sale around Darlington, at Croft Christmas Trees and Elm Ridge garden centre, were tagged with information about the service when they were sold.

Teesside Hospice also benefited from a similar scheme, raising £12,400 after collecting trees from across TS postcodes just after New Year, supported by Northgate Vehicle Hire.

The collected Christmas trees in Teesside are now being chipped and recycled by Askham Bryan College.