With the fall season comes falling leaves. For those who choose to rake the leaves into paper lawn bags to be collected for recycling, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reminds them not to throw trash—or anything other than leaves and small, thin branches—into the bags.
Recently, the County has seen items such as bricks, hammers, sports equipment and wrenches thrown into yard-trim bags. The metal and non-organic materials damage the County's yard-trim grinding equipment, causing delays and repairs at taxpayer expense.
The County yard-trim program processes about 65,000 tons of yard trim and 30,000 tons per year of brush, small tree limbs and logs. Using an aerobic composting process, yard trim is converted into the commercially sold product Leafgro®, a premium soil conditioner available for sale in bags and bulk at lawn and garden outlets throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Other collected materials are processed into a single grind wood material that is sold as a feedstock for mulch production. Sales revenue from Leafgro® and Single Grind Wood reduces the cost of the County’s yard trim composting program.
“The best way to recycle leaves is to keep them in your yard by mulching them into the lawn, adding leaves in backyard composting bins, or piling them into vegetable and flower beds to protect plantings and roots over the winter," said DEP Acting Director Adriana Hochberg. “But our County is fortunate to have a curb-side program that composts leaves and creates a product that we sell to recoup our costs. Help us keep our process moving as efficiently as possible by only adding leaves and small branches in yard trim bags. That way the County saves money and in turn, so do taxpayers.”
The County’s composting program started in 1983, initially composting only leaves collected by the curbside leaf vacuuming collection. In 1989, the program expanded to include leaves and yard trim material that includes grass clippings collected at single-family homes. Today, leaves and grass are received from the entire County, representing a population of more than one million people.