Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let's define "yard waste"

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a phenomenon that must be a problem in all communities with municipal composting: yard waste carts full of trash.

When curbside green carts are used as trash cans, collection companies spend time and money separating the compostable from the non-compostable. It seems that citizens have a hard time understanding what "yard waste" means. For some, "yard waste" seems to mean, "If it's in the yard and I don't want it, it must be yard waste." As a consequence, good compostable material arrives mixed with toys, garden tools, grocery bags, empty lawn chemical containers, plastic utensils tossed out with food scraps, broken bicycles, and more.

Our community recycling service uses this phrase: "If it grows, it goes!" That might spare some confusion. The main rule is that if it's something that goes in the compost bin, it can go in the yard waste cart.

Now some gardeners may be wondering why one needs a yard waste cart when one could use a compost bin. For me, grass clippings, weeds, and kitchen waste do go in the compost bin, But when I trim shrubs or rake up fallen branches, I'd rather put the woody debris in the cart. I don't have a chipper, and woody stuff piles up faster than it breaks down. Municipal composting facilities often like to get woody debris, as they frequently need wood chips to mix with the piles of grass clippings they receive. Makes for a win-win situation for me.

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