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Recycling helps in managing yard waste

April 26, 2021

An elderly person's hand's holding a small plant in a clump of dirtThroughout Johnson County, spring has sprung, bees are buzzing, flowers blooming, and men and women have returned to their yards to mow, rake and remove pesky weeds. Comprising 4% (roughly 20,000 tons) of the Johnson County landfill, down from 13% just a handful of years ago, yard waste is no small matter. It’s illegal to dump leaves, grass clippings and yard waste into the storm drain. They contain nutrients that can still be used. However, bagging your grass clippings takes a lot of time and cramming them into bags or bundling them can be difficult.

What is the best way to manage our lawn waste?

  • Leave it all on the lawn. Not only do grass clippings and leaves help retain moisture, they also return up to 25% of the nutrients back into the soil. University research recommends that you mulch your leaves and grass clippings using a mulching mower. By “grass-cycling” properly your lawn will look great and you can save money on fertilizing. If you don’t let your grass grow too tall, mulch mowing can be a good option for you.
  • Start a backyard compost bin. Compost bins are available to stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, online or you can make your own. Combine your yard waste, leaves, grass clippings, along with certain food waste, coffee grounds and eggshells to make usable compost. You can then use this compost on your lawn or in your garden.
  • Bag or bundle it and leave it at the curb. Your trash and recycling hauler also provide yard waste collection. Depending on their rules, you can dispose of grass clippings and leaves in paper bags only or in a durable bin that can be labeled as containing yard waste. Limbs can be collected if they are cut down and bundled together. Check with your trash and recycling hauler for specific information on their requirements.
  • Keep grass and leaves out of the storm drain. When mowing your lawn sweep grass clippings and leaves that wind up on your driveway and curb back into your lawn. Grass clippings and leaves that block or enter storm drains can cause several issues. Blocked storm drains can lead to increased flooding and grass clippings and leaves that enter the storm drain can increase stormwater pollution. Because storm drains are not connected to a wastewater plant, any material that enters a storm drain will end up in a creek, stream, river or lake. As your yard waste breaks down in these waterways, it adds excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. This can lead to the growth of unwanted algae and other aquatic weeds.

For more information, contact Brandon Hearn at [email protected] or 913-715-6936 at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment or visit K-State Research and Extension: Kansas Healthy Lawns at kansashealthyyards.org.