As the change of seasons litter the ground with leaves, branches and other debris, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) encourages Hoosiers to dispose of leaves and other yard waste wisely. Mulching, composting and chipping leaves and branches return nutrients to the soil instead of disposal fires releasing harmful smoke into the air.
All smoke is harmful to human health and the environment. Smoke from burning leaves and wood waste contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particles and ozone-forming chemicals. Burning leaves, grass clippings, weeds, wet wood and other high-moisture wood products increases the volume of these chemicals in the smoke.
IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly recommends safer, healthier ways to get rid of leaves this fall. “Air quality has improved in Indiana year after year,” said Commissioner Easterly. “One reason we’re breathing healthy air today is because Hoosiers are mulching leaves instead of burning them. Mulching gets rid of the leaves, which most people consider a nuisance, and provides a natural fertilizer come spring.”
Alternatives to open burning include:
· Mulching – Mulch leaves and twigs by chopping them up with a lawnmower. This returns nutrients to the grass.
· Composting – Pile grass clippings, leaves, branches, weeds, and some food scraps in a container or on the ground. They will break down naturally into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Many cities, towns and counties collect unwanted leaves and compost them.
· Chipping – Borrow or rent a chipper to break down leaves and branches. Wood chips can be spread around trees and flower beds to retain soil moisture and control weeds.
More information about leaf and yard debris disposal can be found on IDEM’s website at www.IN.gov/recycle/5725.htm.