New York Says No to Burning Leaves

| 10/20/2009 2:03:28 PM

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Like most gardeners, this time of year I drive slow when passing certain houses, which are known sources of clean bagged leaves. I can’t get enough leaves for composting and mulching, so why would anyone want to burn them? I know the answer – some folks just plain like to do it – but that doesn’t justify the air pollution load leaf burning releases into the atmosphere. The state of New York agrees! This month, New York joined a growing list of states where burning leaves is a crime. Communities like Muskegon County, MI, banned leaf burning back in 1973. Delaware and several other states followed suit in the mid-1990’s.

Fewer leaves being burned should play out as more being composted, but where will they rot? Recession-related budget cuts have reduced or eliminated leaf composting programs from Portland, OR to Brunswick, OH. Cities like Roanoke, VA will pick up only bagged leaves this year, with biodegradable paper leaf bags preferred. In Woodbridge, NJ, you can get paper leaf bags for free.

In some areas, the cost of collecting leaves with a vacuum truck runs as high as $100 per household, which makes me think I may be in the wrong business. Then again, in a society where money seems to talk loudest, maybe a big price tag on leaf collection is what it will take to get more people composting. When the city of Niagara Falls, ON weighed the financial costs vs. environmental benefits of composting yard waste, they came up with a negative $13.53 per ton. If everyone composted their leaves, those benefits would run even higher.

11/10/2013 5:34:27 PM

I compost nearly all yard waste except for limbs and they go in the patio burner on chilly evenings. On the other hand, government getting in people's business is never a good thing. Before getting all wound up and crying about the smoke and all, remember, that is the same government that calls compost / mulch a trash pile and stacked firewood a brush pile. Been there! The smart solution would be to talk to neighbors that burn and have them rake the leaves into a heap for you and your fellow composters to collect. Screw big brother!

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