'Tis the season for yard waste collections
In Illinois, state law requires that this material is kept separate from household garbage.
Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 14:44
WHAT A WASTE! Some communities are converting yard waste into free mulch and compost for residents. (Photo: Zennish/Flickr)
For many towns, April began the yearly collection of yard waste, which runs through November in most areas. Residents of Illinois are required by law to separate this waste from normal household garbage, following the guidelines determined by your local collection program.
Yard (or landscape) waste includes grass trimmings, leaves, branches, twigs, brush, tree droppings (pine cones/crabapples) and plant clippings. Seasonal items such as post-Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees often have special pick-up dates, if the municipality services them at all. Some cities, such as Skokie and Normal, exclude grass trimmings and instead educate residents on how to mulch, mow or utilize those clippings for greenscaping throughout their yard.
Most collectors prefer that branches and twigs are kept separate from the green material, with very specific instructions on how to prepare both types for removal. This service is rarely free and incurs a fee (again, depending upon the rules set forth by your government and collector) often in the form of purchasing either a sticker to put on each bag/bundle, or paying to buy specific bags used to hold your yard waste. In Springfield in April 2011, the community rallied around the two-week clean up period and sent 3,743 cubic yards of landscape waste to the facility, at a cost of over $100,000 — and $25,000 over budget.
Many larger communities also offer times when leaves can be raked into the street for pickup by a special vacuum vehicle, and cities have "free days" when they haul away mass amounts of yard waste at no cost to home owners. If bundling sticks, be sure to use biodegradable string and never plastic!
What happens to all of this yard waste? Many public work departments contract outside companies to collect and haul the material away. But others maintain compost facilities, turn the wood products into mulch, or, like in my town, burn it. Groups that also trim trees produce firewood logs. These landscaping necessities save the department money when they use them for city maintenance or to beautify areas such as parks or government buildings.
The good news is that some of this is available at little or no cost for residents. The Village of Brookville announces on its website that all you have to do is drive over to the woodchip pile and "take what you need." The Village of Western Springs not only offers mulch at the public works building, but can deliver truckloads if they have the supply. In the Village of Roselle, even that delivery is free.
Residents need to contact their Public Works Department to see what is available, as every municipality is different. Some departments even offer assistance to the infirm or elderly who might have difficulty either bagging their waste or driving to fetch mulch.