Leave the Leaves!
Fall leaf cleanup consists of raking leaves into piles, bagging leaves, and sending the bags to a landfill. Some communities have leaf collection which consists of raking the leaves to the curb and the Street crew collects and either dispose of them in a compost or the landfill.
The U.S. EPA states that leaves and other yard debris account for more than 13 percent of the nation’s solid wastes. That equates to nearly 33 million tons of waste a year. And contrary to popular belief, even though leaves are organic matter, there isn’t enough oxygen in a landfill for leaves to decompose. This results in a release of methane- a major greenhouse gas.
Most people don’t know that raking or blowing fallen leaves into the street or storm drains is considered littering and is illegal (littering includes leaves, yard waste, dirt, etc.). When leaves get in street drains, they accumulate on the surface of the body of water that the drain dumps. This degrades the overall health of waterways by increasing nutrient loads and increasing turbidity.
Leaving the leaves on the ground allows them to biodegrade naturally and return nutrients to the soil. All of the leaves will eventually be decomposed by worms and bacteria, and turn into a nutrient-rich humus, which will feed trees and other plants in your yard. Your leaves will decompose faster if you mulch or shred the big leaves into smaller pieces. Mulching the leaves will enhance how the leaves give nutrients back to the soil.
If you decide to leave your leaves, the amount of yard work you will have to do this fall will drastically decrease. Leaves can be raked into small piles around trees, or into garden beds- where they can still undergo their natural processes, but make your lawn look tidier.
Here are some more fall stormwater tips to help keep local watercourses clean and healthy.
— Sweep up grass clippings from driveways, sidewalks, and streets. Don’t forget to sweep along the curb.
— Remove leaves from your gutters, ditches, driveways, sidewalks, streets, and storm drains.