Background on yard trimmings

Yard waste includes tree trimmings, grass clippings, leaves and other plant materials, and is the second largest category of materials generated in the U.S. Yard waste is generally characterized as roughly 50% grass, 25% brush and trees, and 25% leaves. The U.S. generated 32.4 million tons of yard waste in 2006, and about 20 million tons were recycled or composted, for a recovery rate of 62 percent. Yard waste comprises about seven percent of the materials discarded in landfills and incinerators.

The amount of yard waste generated by a community depends upon geographic location, seasonal weather variations, landscape designs, and onsite landscaping practices. Source reduction and onsite management practices such as grasscycling and native landscape design can greatly decrease the amount of yard trimmings managed by a community program and benefit the local flora and ecosystems as well. For excess materials, windrow composting is the most popular method of treatment for its ease and its ability to generate saleable end products. Grinding may be used to reduce the initial volume and accelerate the decomposition process, but in cases without land constraints, low level technology involving turning windrows with a front end loader and occasionally adding water for moisture is all that is needed. The end products, mulch and soil amendments, should be made readily available to the community to close the loop and return these nutrients back to the local soils.

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