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Yard Waste Composting for Municipalities
Slide Show, Part V

Nancy Dickson and Tom Richard
July 1989

V. Collection

Once a site has been found, it is necesary to consider how wastes will be collected. Municipal yard waste collection can occur in two ways. There can be a separate curbside collection program, or a drop-off site can be established where residents or commercial yard waste generators voluntarily deliver their yard wastes. Curbside collection systems are generally more expensive than drop-off systems. However, these costs may be justified on the basis of diverting more yard wastes from other disposal facilities. Ideally, a municipality should offer both strategies to increase the participation of residents and landscapers.
Curbside collection will generate significantly higher participation rates than drop-off sites. If a municipality decides to collect bagged leaves it should consider providing biodegradable paper bags to residents, since bags often get shredded and mixed in with the compost in large scale operations.
Leaves sealed in traditional, nondegradable plastic will putrefy instead of composting and it can be difficult to separate them from finished compost. When sites are crowded with nonbiodegradable plastic bags there are more likely to be complaints from residents, which can prompt the DEC to shut offending facilities down.
Biodegradable cornstarch plastics are designed to decomopose primarily through the action of microbes, such as bacteria and fungi. These organisms can physical y break down the long polymer chains by digesting a starch filler inserted inthe polymer chains. Biodegradable plastic bags currently on the market still take several years to decompose, and probably need to be shredded with a windrow tuner to speed the degradation.
Paper leaf bags are biodegradable and have been used successfully in many communities. The bags hold 33 gallons of leaves, and may be single or double-ply. Bags make with wet strength paper actually become stronger when wet. They can be collected with a packer truck and compacted. The more bags that break, the easier it will be to compost them. If bags are sold to residents to recover their cost, some incentive should be provided or residents may mix their yard waste with their refuse. A ban on yard waste in mixed refuse, as well as a rule that only separated waste will be picked up, may help.
Compared to the collection of bagged leaves, bulk collection of loose leaves is a somewhat slower method. There are a number of options for collecting loose leaves. All require the residents to rake leaves to the curb.
Vacuum leaf collectors are designed to suck up leaves that have been raked into the street or onto the curbside median. Tag-along units are towed behind a truck, into which the leaves are blown. Many vacuums have manually operated intake hoses 7 to 18 inches in diameter. Some models include an internal shredding system. Their advantage is that they collect very completely and clean the street. A disadvantage is that they are slow and require a crew of several laborers. Trailer vacuum units cost from $6,000 to $20,000. Self-contained units range from $80,000 to $100,000.
A front-end loader is also an efficient way of collecting leaves when the leaf fall is heavy. Additional attachments, such as a claw, are also available. A claw attachment to a front end loader can open to a spread of about 8 feet and can scrape up leaves without damaging the uncurbed shoulder of a street.
Drop-off leaf collection requires a smaller investment than curbside collection, less effort, and less personnel. Drop-off sites are popular with commercial landscapers and yard maintenance firms, if they can deliver waste on a daily basis. However, there is likely to be a lower residential participation rate than with curbside collection. (Special thanks to Frank Flower)
In a recycling center automobiles can enter the drop-off area, pull over to the edge of a paved driveway, dump yard waste into piles adjacent to the driveway, and then continue to drive to a finished compost pile from which they can help themselves.
Piles of firewood and wood chips can also be made available.
Only residents and contractors serving local residents should be allowed to use the drop off site. In many communities, landscape contractors already haul a great deala of source separated yard waste to the transfer station or disposal site. Offering this group a financial incentive, such as a reduced tipping fee, can readily divert this material to a compost site. Charging fees based on volume and selling "tipping tickets" in advance can eliminate the need for scales or much cash handling at a compost site.

Continue on with slideshow: Part VI. Publicity.



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This page was created on May 1, 1996
This page was last updated October 2000