Baltimore County Now
Public Information Specialist
Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management
For the next few weeks we’re right in the thick of it when it comes to leaf collection. Each year from the beginning of April to the middle of December, Baltimore County provides a special yard materials recycling collection, once every two weeks, to 70 percent (165,000) of the County’s individual and townhomes. Materials such as grass, leaves, and small brush are collected and taken to the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility (ESL) in White Marsh for composting. The goal of this program is to reduce the amount of organic matter that is being landfilled. In 2013 approximately 11,000 tons of yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program were processed into compost.
County residents may also take yard materials and brush and branches to two of the County’s drop-off facilities for recycling. More than 17,200 tons of these items were taken to ESL and approximately 4,100 tons were taken to the Central Acceptance Facility (CAF) in 2013.
What happens to the grass, leaves and brush?
The items dropped off at CAF are processed into compost and mulch by Hollins Organic Products, Inc. The yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program and the yard materials and brush and branches taken to ESL by residents are processed into compost and mulch by the County at ESL.
Large tree branches and tree trunks are run through a large piece of equipment called a tub grinder to make mulch. The smaller material (grass, leaves, and small brush) is piled in long rows called windrows. Another large piece of equipment, appropriately named a windrow turner, moves over the rows using rotating blades to break down, mix and aerate the material. This process of “turning” helps to create the proper conditions for efficient composting (“nature’s recycling program”) of the material. Depending on the weather and other factors, the material will generally stay in these rows roughly 90 days. This material is then run through a trommel screen to remove large and unwanted debris. The compost is then piled up, where it continues to “cure” until it is ready for use.
Compost is decomposed organic material (humus) that helps to enrich and condition the soil. Mulch is “shredded” wood that is used around plants, bushes, and trees as ground cover, and helps to protect root systems from the cold.
Free compost and mulch for residents
Baltimore County residents may pick up compost and mulch, free of charge, from ESL (6259 Days Cove Road, White Marsh, MD 21162). Before going to ESL, call the Solid Waste Management customer service number (410-887-2000) to check on the availability of compost and mulch. Residents will need to bring and fill their own containers.
DIY is best bet
Collecting and processing yard materials is a big and expensive task, so residents are encouraged to “lend a hand” and handle their yard materials at home, through methods such as grasscycling, leafcycling and home composting. For more information about these easy to do methods, check out www.baltimorecountymd.gov/publicworks/recycling.
Contributed by Mother Nature
Psst, come closer. I want to share a well-kept secret with you - “Leafcycling.” Haven’t heard of “Leafcycling?” Well, you’re not alone. So let me tell you a little story. To start, we must go back to spring when the deciduous trees are emerging from their long winter “sleep” and their leaves begin to grow.
Leaves take in sunlight and carbon dioxide, and through an amazing process turn it into the food that a tree needs to thrive. Leaves also produce life-giving oxygen for the planet and help to moderate its temperature. Leaves perform this task day in and day out from spring to fall.
When summer ends and temperatures drop, these hard-working little gems provide a magnificent show of colors. But even as these little wonders fall from their branches, they still have much to offer when given the chance. That is where “Leafcycling” comes into play.
Instead of wasting your leaves by raking, bagging and putting them out for the County to collect, put these little gems to use enriching your yard. The easiest way to “Leafcycle” is to run your lawnmower over the leaves where they have fallen and leave the clippings on the lawn. These clippings will decompose over time and enrich the soil with valuable nutrients.
There are a few simple rules that you should follow when “Leafcycling” to obtain the best results:
- Instead of waiting for all of the leaves to fall and mulching them in one cutting, do multiple cuttings. This is especially true if you have a lot of leaves.
- Chop the leaves as finely as possible. The finer the particles, the quicker they will decompose. A mulching mower will assist in this process, but any mower can be used.
- Make sure the leaf particles don’t cover the tops of the grass blades. You don’t want to smother your lawn.
If the mulched leaves are higher than the tops of the grass blades, you can place the excess around your annual plants, shrubs, hedges and trees. A six-inch layer of mulched leaves will quickly settle into the ideal three-inch layer that will help to keep soil moist and protect the plants’ roots through winter.
Make it easy on yourself and give your lawn, garden and the environment a boost by using these little gems as I intended.
Thanks from Mother Nature and the Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management, Recycling Division.