Ozark Outdoors

Don’t waste autumn foliage, turn it into black gold

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A Springfield couple unloads leaves that will be turned into rich compost.

A Springfield couple unloads leaves that will be turned into rich compost.

By BARBARA LUCKS

For many of us, an Ozarks autumn wouldn’t be complete without long drives along country roads to gaze at the beautiful gold, crimson and orange leaves. However, once the leaves fall from the trees, we’re tasked with disposing of them properly.

In 1992, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources banned yardwaste (leaves, grass clippings, brush) from Missouri landfills — for good reason. When placed in landfills, yardwaste takes up valuable space. Besides, it has great value when composted or ground up for landscaping mulch.

In response to the landfill yardwaste ban, the City of Springfield implemented several programs to help Springfield and Greene County residents reuse and recycle yardwaste.

The best recycling process for grass and leaves is to mulch the yardwaste while mowing your yard. When grass and leaves are left on the yard after mowing, important nutrients are put back into the soil. By adding these free nutrients back into the soil, we can improve the appearance of our lawns. This is also more convenient because it eliminates needless bagging of grass and leaves along with transporting and hauling costs.

As a second option, the city offers the Yardwaste Recycling Center, located near the Southwest Treatment Plant. This recycling center accepts materials from residents of Springfield and Greene County and processes the grass clippings and leaves into compost for reuse as a soil amendment and grinds woody materials for landscaping mulch. These products are available for sale at the center.

Barbara Lucks

Barbara Lucks

A third option is to compost grass and leaves in a small compost bin on your property. This also provides residents with a convenient and economical option for reusing grass and leaves without having to haul these materials to an approved processing facility. The composted materials can then be used to enhance the soil in flower and vegetable gardens.

As a fourth option, the city accepts small quantities of yardwaste at the Franklin Recycling Center, 731 N. Franklin and at the Lone Pine Recycling Center, 3020 S. Lone Pine. Loads above the limits will be referred to the Yardwaste Recycling Center.

A fifth option, for neighborhoods that are scheduling fall cleanup events, is to bring yardwaste to the events that are accepting yardwaste. Visit springfieldmo.gov/cleanups for the registered neighborhood schedule or check with your neighborhood association to confirm schedules and availability for your neighborhood.

As a reminder, city ordinance prohibits placing yardwaste in streets, storm drains, ditches, waterways or other drainage areas. Placing yardwaste in streets or drainage areas can cause flooding and water pollution. When storm drains and ditches are clogged with yardwaste, there is the potential for flooding, which can result in unsafe driving conditions and property damage.

Placing yard waste in the street can also cause a hazard to motorists by reducing traction between vehicles and the roadway. Storm drains and ditches flow directly into streams, rivers and lakes, which provide drinking water and recreation. The nutrients in yardwaste promote undesirable algae growth in our streams and lakes, affecting the quality of our water resources.

Visit springfieldmo.gov/recycling for information regarding hours of operation, locations and materials accepted or call the Recycling Hotline at 417-864-1904.

Barbara Lucks is Volunteer Coordinator for Friends of the Garden and Springfield Sisters Cities. She was formerly sustainability officer of the Department of Environmental Services for the City of Springfield. 

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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