Less Waste, More Recycling: Leaf and Yard Rules in Effect

Vermont is taking the next step to reduce waste with a ban on leaf, yard and clean wood debris in landfills, effective July 1, 2016. The landfill ban is part of the 2012 Universal Recycling law (Act 148), which was enacted to increase recycling rates, decrease waste in landfills, and ensure that materials are managed sustainably. 

“Vermonters can help the environment and save money by recycling, and that includes recycling organic materials like leaves and clean wood,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz.

Leaf and yard debris includes grass clippings, leaves, brown paper bags, small-diameter brush, and other untreated vegetative matter. Clean wood includes trees, branches, stumps and root masses, as well as untreated and unpainted wood and lumber. Traditionally, these materials have been used as mulch, composted to produce a rich humus prized by gardeners for increasing soil fertility, or simply left to decompose at the edge of the backyard. 

Making it easier to sustainably manage leaf, yard, and clean wood debris is part of Vermont’s Universal Recycling law. Vermonters throughout the state should see an increase in the number and convenience of management options. Effective with the landfill ban, solid waste haulers and transfer stations must offer to collect, at a fee, leaf and yard debris. Residents may also bring debris to a transfer station, to a commercial composter or to a local stump dump, where the materials will be managed appropriately.

“Residents have been bringing their leaves and brush to us for many years,” said Deane Wilson, Waste Diversion Manager, Rutland County Solid Waste District. “We are pleased to see leaf and yard debris now recycled statewide.”

Residents should call commercial composters in advance to confirm hours and availability.  If leaf and yard debris has been treated with an herbicide or pesticide, residents should ask if the material will be accepted.

Vermonters are also encouraged to manage leaf and yard debris at home, which many already do without even knowing it.  “Making a pile and just letting it rot is perfectly fine—it’s called ‘passive composting,’ but I just call it pile it and forget about it. The pile is also a useful source of carbon material for my food scrap compost bin,” said Michele Morris of Chittenden Solid Waste District.

Other home management methods can actively benefit lawns and gardens. Mulching lawnmowers recycle grass clippings and leaves right back into the soil. Compost piles with food scraps benefit from the addition of carbon-rich sources such as dried leaves and grass, which reduce odors and speed up the composting process. Grass clippings, wood chips, and leaves make excellent mulch for gardens and plantings. Small branches make great trellises or poles for climbing plants.

“There are so many ways Vermonters can connect with each other to find good homes for things they no longer need. It shows how much people already care about reducing waste; in a way, the law is just confirming what Vermonters already know and do,” said Secretary Markowitz.

For more information: visit www.vtrecycles.com.
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Twitter: @vtrecycles

Media Contact:
Josh Kelly
Dept. of Environmental Conservation
(802) 522-5897 or josh.kelly@vermont.gov