It's big and powerful, with sharp teeth and an insatiable appetite.
The Brush Bandit - the great white shark of chipping machines can chew up and spit out about 60 Christmas trees an hour, quickly turning them into chips and mulch.
The Bandit should be in for a feast Saturday, when the city holds its annual Christmas tree chipping program, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the state Department of Transportation parking lot near 7 Mile Glacier Highway.
"We handled about 700 trees last year and about 800 the year before," city public works administrator Larry Zeman said.
The program is free but the city wants residents to remove all decorations, nails and stands from their trees.
Wallace Tree Service owner Bob Chernikoff, who donated use of the chipper, is confident the Bandit can handle the job.
"It takes up to 12-inch pieces of wood, like logs, and turns them into chips," he said. "It turns Christmas trees basically into mulch because they're mostly branches."
Chernikoff estimated the Bandit is comparable in size to a Honda Civic and weighs about 300 pounds. The yellow chipper has four blades with about 24 inches of cutting surface.
"When we're cooking we can handle up to 100 trees an hour, depending on the size of the stuff that comes in," he said. "Some people drop off their trees and stand there until it goes through because it's sort of neat to watch."
Capitol Disposal is donating equipment to haul the wood chips and tree mulch to the Juneau Community Garden on Montana Creek Road.
Master gardener Ed Buyarski said the chips and mulch make great ground cover, for appearance as well as insulation.
"It's a great resource to garden organically, along with (beer) brewer's grain, seaweed off beaches and salmon carcasses," Buyarski said. "And it's free, which is also important."
Zeman said the city plans to stick to the Saturday chipping schedule because of time constraints on equipment and volunteers. The DOT lot also must be cleared.
"We're going to start right at 10 a.m. and cut it off right at 2 p.m.," Zeman said.
For more information, call Zeman at 780-6888.
Mike Sica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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