by: Leslie Jones
Many of us don’t know what to do with the ever-problematic piles of leaves in our yard. It doesn’t seem quite right that organic matter would be banned from a landfill, but that is exactly what has happened in Indiana and several other states. According to Indiana Code 13-20-9, leaves are specifically named as being something that the landfills can no longer accept in large quantities. “In the U.S., yard waste accounts for nearly 17% of all Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) according to the EPA. The waste consists of the usual backyard things like grass clippings, leaves and tree trimmings that adds up to nearly 31 million tons each year. Records show that over the last four decades the amount of green waste that ends up at landfills has drastically reduced due to residential composting, waste management, and composting facilities.
Yard Waste and Landfills Don’t Go Hand-in-Hand.
Why should we support yard waste recycling? One reason being, to extend the life of a landfill and decrease methane emissions from damaging the earth. Methane is an odorless gas that is released as bacteria decomposes organic matter (in this case yard waste) in our landfills. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is a contributing factor in climate change. Additionally, without controlling methane within a landfill, it can seep into the ground where it has the potential to explode. Burning of yard waste in incinerators is not exactly a great option either because when burned, it emits certain gases that contribute to the formation of smog-causing nitrogen oxides.
Grasscycling: Leave the Grass in the Grass
During spring and summer months, grass accounts for 50% of a resident’s yard waste. A new catchy term called “Grasscycling” refers to putting those grass clippings to use around your home instead of bagging them and setting it curbside. Letting freshly cut grass decay the natural way allows valuable nutrients to be released back into the soil and encourages beneficial soil aeration from earthworms. Moreover, leaving grass clippings in the grass can reduce the time you spend with the mower, which benefits air quality as well. Programs like, “leave it on the lawn” combined with backyard composting has made yard waste the most reduced source-item in the waste stream. Grasscycling is one simple thing homeowners can do to help the environment.”*
Composting: Another Viable Option for organic matter. “Greens and browns are nicknames for different types of organic matter to use in composting recipes.
Greens are high in nitrogen or protein, thus organic nitrogen sources. These products help the composting microherd to grow, breed, and multiply fast in the piles....creating extreme internal temperatures in hot compost piles.
Browns are high in carbon or carbohydrates, thus organic carbon sources. These products supply the energy and food that mostly all soil organism need to survive. Carbons also help absorb the offensive odors and capture and help prevent most of the organic nitrogen in the piles from escaping by evaporation or leaching. Carbons are essential in the faster formation of humus from the organic matter in a composting process.
A simple test to determine if your organic matter is a "green" or a "brown" is to wet it, and wait a few days. If it stinks, it is definitely a green. If not, it's a brown.
Normal compost has a C:N ratio ranging from 25:1 to 30:1. This is considered the origin or dividing line for all organic materials.**
Unfortunately, the ordinances, laws and restrictions continue to become more strict as we learn more about the impact waste has on the landfills and the Earth in general. Along with recycling for general household recyclables, hopefully composting helps you manage another percentage of your waste stream. Whatever we can do to keep the amount thrown into the landfill to a minimum extends the life of the landfill and keeps our environment cleaner. Between recycling and composting, when it comes to what should go in the landfill, if in doubt.......leave it out!