Westchester Leaf Removal Program Saves $3.5M

Google announced a lab for circular economy research that can enhance urban sustainability. Shown are two leaves representing the economy and the environment.

Privatizing leaf removal and promoting mulching have curbed costs for Westchester County by $3.5 million annually. Details of this effort as well as others around the country promoting sustainable disposal of leaves…

What Happened?
Westchester County, New York, has partnered with a private contractor to transform fallen leaves into materials that can be reused to feed lawns and shrubs. The sustainability project is eco-friendly and has saved the county $3.5 million a year on maintenance costs.

The Goal
Rather than bagging up fallen leaves so municipal workers to cart off, many localities are encouraging residents to leave fallen leaves alone. Private contractors are able to chop up the leaves and turn them into nutritious mulch to support healthier lawns and foliage in the spring. Reused leaves added to soil improve water retention and reduce the need for fertilizers which can be harmful to pets and children.

Because taxpayers must pay for agencies to take away fallen leaves and dispose of them, it makes sense that the leaves be reused rather than discarded at an expense. When the leaves are left in place and not piled on up curbside, there is a lower risk of storm drains being clogged, or unwanted chemicals emitted by decomposing leaves entering water sources, The New York Times reported.

Furthermore, city officials are spreading awareness of the benefits of mulching to residents, suggesting they purchase mulching attachments to lawn mowers if they want to proactively contribute to the projects. Otherwise, the city is equipped with a private partnership to take care of mulching needs.

MadTown Mulch Crazy
The city of Madison, Wisconsin, is also releasing public service statements to residents encouraging people to leave fall leaves in place and allow for the materials to turn into nutritious mulch.  The city recommends residents chop up their leaves and spread them over gardens and perennial plants to insulate them from the harsh Wisconsin winters. When spring arrives, the leaf piles will defrost and seep into the soil for optimal nutrient absorption.

According to the city of Madison, there are many benefits to mulching leaves on lawns rather than having them picked up by city workers. When leaves are mulched in place, large city trucks make less trips throughout the city picking up bags of leaves. Valuable nutrients are easily added to soil and gardens each year, and the need for fertilizers is significantly reduced. When leaves are chopped up into small bits, microbes and insects can easily digest the material and convert them into nutrients for the soil and less weed growth.

Madison is one of many cities implementing green programs to maintain local spaces while reducing costs, emissions and use of nonorganic materials. For example, Madison no longer uses salt on its roads when cold weather threatens icing. The city opts to spread salt on its streets and sidewalks to prevent salt from entering local bodies of water and damaging fresh water ecosystems.

City officials recommend residents mulch their leaves before temperatures drop below freezing. By placing the barrier of leaves over foliage and gardens, the soil may not freeze as deeply when winter strikes, allowing for healthier soil to surface in the spring.

Keeping It Green
EfficientGov has monitored several innovations for green space preservation including privatization projects for park maintenance.
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About the author

Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.