When the Leaves Come Falling Down
For the next few Sundays Springfield's leaf recycling centers will be open. City ordinances prohibit the dumping of leaves and yard waste into streets and waterways; this includes street gutters. Open burning of trees, brush, or any other vegetation requires an open-burning permit, but the open burning of leaves is prohibited. Legal alternatives to the leaf recycling centers include mulching and backyard composting.
While the US, Canada, and Europe diverge from each other in many ways, they are consistent in the fact that yard waste makes up 20% to 30% of municipally-collected solid waste. (Food waste makes up another 8% to 9%.) Collecting, hauling and processing yard waste can constitute an average of 20% of the waste management budget, although the number rises to 50% in some localities.
The Michigan legislature is approaching this perennial problem in an interesting/controversial new way. After nineteen yard-waste-free years, they are proposing to to re-introduce yard waste into the trash flow ending up in landfills--but only if 70% of the gas (mostly methane) from the decomposition of garbage is recovered and used as energy supply. While landfills would then derive more revenue from the sale of energy and increased waste volume, environmentalists worry about the unrecovered methane, an extremely potent and volatile greenhouse gas.
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