For Immediate Release
April 19, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Yard Waste: A Resource with Value

An Op-Ed Column by John Mitchell
Director, Division of Environment

Leaves, grass clippings, dead garden plants, and trimmings from bushes have commonly been called yard “waste” because until recently, most Kansans have simply thrown these materials out with the rest of their trash.  In the mid-1990s, yard waste disposal in Kansas landfills peaked at approximately 350,000 tons per year - - enough to nearly fill the University of Kansas Memorial Stadium.  But a trend began in the late 1990s, not only to reduce landfill disposal, but also due to people realizing these yard materials were a valuable organic resource that should not be wasted.  Using a combination of mulch mowing, composting, and wood mulching, yard waste disposal has been nearly cut in half.  Last year, a total of over 150,000 tons of rich dark compost was produced at nearly 150 community compost sites.

As the 2010 growing and planting season is upon us, most of us have opportunities to use “Kansas” compost and to ensure yard wastes are managed in the best way possible.  If you have a community compost facility, check to see if you can obtain a load of seasoned compost for your flower and vegetable gardens.  Also consider ways to minimize your generation and disposal of yard waste throughout the year.

By using a mulching mower, grass clippings and even leaves can be left on the yard where the nutrients can do the lawn the most good.  While some people think this is harmful to a lawn, mulch mowing actually conserves nutrients by leaving them on the lawn. It also conserves water by providing a cooling mulch layer.  If the grass or leaf layer is too thick for mulch mowing then grass and leaves can be collected and composted either at a central community site or in your own backyard composting bin.  Other items to include in a personal compost pile are shredded junk mail, green material from your kitchen, and coffee grounds.    For more information on how to set up your own backyard compost site check out the Kansas Garden Guide produced by the K-State Extension Service (see http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/hort2/s51.pdf).

Despite a decade of progress, Kansans still landfill approximately 200,000 tons of yard waste each year.  Unlike many states, Kansas does not have a statewide landfill ban for yard.  All of our progress has been because Kansans recognize the benefits of good yard waste management practices.  With your help, we can reduce disposal much more to save valuable landfill space while producing valuable products for our home and community gardens.  

To find out if your community has a central yard waste processing site, go to:
http://www.kansasrecycles.org/find-a-recycling-program and click on “yard waste.” 

John Mitchell is the Director of Environment at Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He can be reached at jmitchell@kdheks.gov.