When autumn leaves start to fall

colorful leaf on a lawnRight about now your yard is likely filling up with leaves. But instead of raking, blowing, and bagging them, you can put these leaves to good use and help protect the environment: just mulch them with your lawn mower. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water and protects waterways from runoff pollution.

Some tips:

  • Mulch when leaves are dry or only slightly wet.
  • Set the mower blade to its highest setting.
  • Remove the bag that collects clippings.
  • With heavy leaf cover, you may need to make more than one pass. Make the second pass at right angles, perpendicular to the first.
  • Reduce leaf clutter to dime-size pieces.
  • You’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through mulched leaf layer.
    • If you’re done and can’t see any grass whatsoever, reattach the bag and go over the grass one last time to pick up some of the leaves. Place bagged leaves in your garden beds or compost pile.
  • Consider mulching on a weekly basis during the height of the season to prevent a challenging amount of leaves from accumulating.

You can mulch leaves with any type of lawn mower. If you prefer a mulching blade, they can be purchased at most hardware and home improvement stores.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can bring your leaves to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to obtain mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city has this service (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

Spring into recycling

Spring has sprung, which probably means you’re itching to get outdoors to clean and landscape your yard. This year, make it extra clean and green by recycling.

Mulch it over

SpringIntoRecycInstead of bagging your grass clippings and leaves, mulch them instead. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water, and protects waterways from stormwater-runoff pollution.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can take your lawn and garden waste to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services.

Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers — contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

Spring is a great time to install a compost bin in your backyard. In addition to making a great natural fertilizer, composting is a great way to reduce the 20-30 percent of your household trash that is made up of food waste and lawn and garden waste.

They lurk in your garage

Dangerous lawn and garden chemicals put the health and safety of your family and the environment at risk. Safely dispose of hazardous chemicals through a household hazardous waste program. These programs also take paint, automotive fluids, cleaners, bug sprays, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs and other household products labeled danger, warning, or caution.

Pots and trays and bags, oh my!

When you’re done landscaping, recycle your plastic planting pots, trays and landscaping product bags (packaging for mulch, topsoil and other soil amendments). After a quick rinse, pots and trays can be recycled in your curbside bin or be taken to area recycling centers. After a thorough rinse (i.e., they’re 100-percent clean and dry) landscaping product bags can be recycled with plastic bags at your local grocery or “big box” store.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

Invest in “Black Gold” by composting

Compost, or “black gold” as gardeners sometimes call it, is a decayed mixture of plant waste that is used to improve soil. You can make compost from yard waste, food waste or both. As a natural fertilizer, it is one of the best investments you can make for the health and beauty of your yard and garden. It’s also a great way to reduce food and yard waste, which comprise approximately 20–30 percent of your household waste stream.

Compost has many benefits:

  • It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Composting waste instead of throwing it in the trash reduces methane emissions from landfills.
  • It lowers our carbon footprint.
  • It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

Your compost investment strategy

Option A: Set up a backyard compost bin

compost black goldIf you have a yard, select a dry, shady, or partly shady spot near a water source and preferably out of neighbors’ sight. Ideally, the compost area should be at least one cubic yard in size. A pile works great for just leaves and grass clippings, but if you want to incorporate food waste, you’ll need to use a bin to prevent rodents and pets from invading.

You can build your own bin or purchase one online or at retail locations. You’ll also need a small kitchen compost bin where you can collect and store food waste before taking it to your backyard pile.

There are four types of ingredients needed to make great compost: browns for carbon, greens for nitrogen, air for organisms, and water for moisture. Visit What is composting? for a list of items you can and can’t compost and tips for mixing it right.

Option B: Set up an indoor compost bin

If you don’t have a yard, or would prefer not to set up an outdoor bin, there are two options for indoor composting: vermicomposting and bokashi composting. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to convert food waste into compost. Bokashi composting involves fermenting food waste. If you don’t have an outdoor space to use your compost, use it for houseplants, give it to friends and family members, or contact a nearby community garden.

Option C: Mulch your grass and leaves

The best food for your lawn is grass clippings and leaves. When you mow your yard, mulch the grass clippings and leaves instead of collecting them for disposal. When done properly, the mulch will quickly decompose and return nutrients to the soil naturally. Visit What is composting? for mulching tips.

Option D: Send it off-site

If you suffer from the “ick factor,” you can take your food scraps to Kansas City’s Residential Composting Program at URBAVORE and they’ll compost it for you.

You can take lawn and garden refuse to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to buy mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, look for a private company that collects and manages lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to inquire about costs and procedures.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, the Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

 

Paper towels absorb more than spills

Without a thought, we grab a handful of paper towels to dry our hands in a public restroom or to clean up a spill in the kitchen and then we toss them in the trash. But what is the environmental cost? A lot of energy and resources go into making paper towels: harvesting the wood, processing it, bleaching it, packaging it, and transporting it — all just to reach the store! However, there is a great way to counter this resource and energy-intensive process: just say no.

papertowels-credit-SCA Svenska Cellulosa AktiebolagetIn the restroom

In the old days, people used to carry cloth handkerchiefs. Today these make great paper towel substitutes. You can purchase handkerchiefs at most department stores, and a good one can last for many years. Keep one in your pocket or purse and use it when wet hands arise. If you’re worried about the dampness affecting other items, you can keep the handkerchief in a Ziploc bag between uses, or lay it out to dry on a desk. Wash handkerchiefs with the rest of your laundry.

In the kitchen

All bath towels must be retired at some point, so why not give those frayed and faded towels a second life in your kitchen? Store them in a kitchen cabinet or drawer, ready to be used the next time Junior spills his milk. Just like the hankies, these towels can go in with your laundry and serve many years as a greener, quicker picker-upper.

If all else fails, compost!

If you do end up using paper towels, they can be disposed of in your compost bin instead of the trash. Find information on composting at home on the MARC website.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via photopin cc

New yard waste management options for Jackson County

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

In 2012, Jackson County received a $15,000 grant from the MARC Solid Waste Management District to survey residents living in the eastern part of the county to determine interest and need for a yard waste collection facility. More than 1,500 surveys were completed by residents of Blue Springs, Oak Grove, Lake Lotawana, Lone Jack, Grain Valley and the unincorporated area of the county. The findings of this survey indicated that residents:

  • Have a need for additional yard waste disposal services in the area.
  • Recognize the need to properly manage yard waste.
  • Believe local government should have a role in addressing yard waste management needs.

EJC Yard Waste SignAs a result of this survey, the county received $64,632 in grant funds from the district to support start-up costs for a regional yard waste drop-off facility. The site is located near Pink Hill and Ketterman Road in Oak Grove on land owned by Jackson County. The cities of Blue Springs, Oak Grove and Grain Valley collaborated with the county on the project.

The Eastern Jackson County (EJC) Yard Waste Collection Center officially opened on June 5, 2014. The facility collects leaves, yard clippings, tree limbs, brush and large tree debris.

For more information about the EJC Yard Waste Collection Center, including hours and fees, visit the county’s website or call (816) 847-7050.

How much does a typical American family throw out in a week?

Do you know how much of your weekly household waste could be diverted from the landfill? The Glad Products Company recently took a closer look at eight diverse U.S. families as part of a public service campaign on household waste awareness, and the visual is rather eye-opening.

In a photographic study titled “Waste in Focus,” photojournalist Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio interviewed each of the families and sorted one week’s worth of household trash and recycling. The photos feature each family surrounded by items destined for the landfill or the recycling or compost bin.

Glad-Waste-In-Focus-Family

The families, each with four members, live in Atlanta, New York City, Phoenix and San Francisco and are of different backgrounds and ethnicities. While this was not an exercise to compare the families to one another, there are a few interesting takeaways from the project:

  • The average amount of waste generated was 36.3 pounds for the week. Of that, 55 percent was destined for the landfill and 45 percent was a combination of recyclables and compostables.
  • The New York City families generated less waste; averaging 25 pounds for the week.
  • The San Francisco families averaged a 91 percent recycling rate. This is not surprising since San Francisco residents are required to separate their food waste for compost pickup rather than put it into trash destined for landfill.

Find out more about the project, view the photos and read each family’s story by visiting WasteinFocus. The site, in partnership with Keep America Beautiful, also includes a quiz and tips that can help you and your family reduce waste at home.

Pendleton Heights Curbside Compost Program – powered by bicycle!

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

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Jerusalem Farm, a nonprofit and intentional community, was awarded a 2013 grant to provide weekly curbside collection of compostable materials to the Pendleton Heights neighborhood located in northeast Kansas City.

Volunteers collect compostable materials once a week from participating residents using buckets and bicycles. The buckets were diverted from local grocery store bakeries and would have otherwise been destined for disposal. They were cleaned, spray painted with the program logo and provided to participating households. Revolve KC, another SWMD grantee, supplied the bicycles at a reduced cost. The farm plans to use a truck during the colder months.

Jerusalem-Farm2The collected material will be composted on farm property. Finished compost will be given to participating residents or used in the farm’s community garden lots.

The collection program began in June and has diverted nearly 2.5 tons of material (including the buckets).  To date, the program has 41 residential participants.  More information about the program is available on the Jerusalem Farm website.