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 Loving Garland Green is launching a public awareness campaign aimed to encourage people to think about what happens to their leaves and then take action to enact what they believe will be the most environmentally sound way to deal with excess leaves in their yard.

Right now in Garland (and I'm sure in other cities in the DFW area as well) people put leaves into plastic bags and then sit them curbside for their city workers to pick up.  Beyond that many folks don't stop to ask:  What happens to these leaves after they are picked up?  If you live in Plano, Richardson, Allen or McKinney, you probably already know what happens to your leaves as those cities formed a partnership over 20 years ago to recycle their leaves through a program called "Texas Pure Products".  Turns out leaves are a valuable natural resource and we should not be putting them in our landfills.

 

Twenty-Two bags of leaves rescued from the curbside of four homes in the Firewheel area of Garland this morning.  Had these bags not been rescued, Garland Environmental Services would have picked them up and taken them to the Hinton Landfill--approximately 990 pounds.  Now the leaves in these bags will be recycled back into soil at the Garland Community Garden.  

Here in Garland, all plastic bags left curbside are taken to the landfill.  They are not diverted from the waste stream destined for the landfill.  Our purpose for this campaign is not to complain about what is being done.  Our purpose is to inform the public of better choices and let them make their own decisions.

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We are not advocating for any one particular solution.  {Fact is that even among our members we would not agree.  For example, my solution would be to do nothing and simply allow nature to follow the its course.  Leaves were meant to stay where they fall to rebuild the nutrients they took from the earth during their growing process.  When we remove them from the place where their fell, we eventually must replace not only the nutrients in the soil, but the soil itself as a certain amount of soil is lost each year to runoff and other erosion.  However other Loving Garland Green members might take exception with my solution.  Still, I think most of my friends would agree that the solution is not to cart the leaves off in plastic bags to our landfill.]

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How Big Is the Problem of Sending the Leaves to the Landfill?

We are creating a huge problem by sending our leaves to the landfill and most experts on the topic agree with me.  I hope that during the month of November we are able to more accurately quantify "big".  I also hope to learn more regarding the consequences as well as solutions.

To use the leaves we gathered this morning as a tiny example, we picked up two 3/4 ton truck loads of leaf bags.  Three of the 22 bags weighed about 30 pounds. All the other bags weighed between 40 and 50-55 pounds.  Due to garden work, I know my capacity for lifting.  I can easily lift 30 pounds  40 pounds is tougher and 50 to 55 pounds takes a lot of effort.  Using 45 as the average, I collected 990 pounds of leaves from four homes today.  That's about half a ton of leaves from four homes and the leaf season really hasn't even begun--nor did I even scratch the surface of all the leaf bags in the Firewheel area available today.  There are 34, 622 homes in the 75040 and 75044 zip code zones.  SOURCE

The homes from which we gathered leaves today will have at least the same amount (three or four more times again) before the trees are barren.  Let's say that four houses in this area equal 1.5 tons each fall.  It works out to 12,975 tons of leaves from these two zip code areas alone going to our landfill each year and this area is only about half of the houses in Garland. It's likely that Garland sends about 24,000 tons of leaves and grass clippings to the Hinton landfill each year. This is akin to shipping your soil to a graveyard where no one will use it while depleting the capacity for the soil on your property to replenish itself. Provided my estimates run true regarding the tonnage, this means that approximately 15% of all the trash we send to the landfill is comprised of leaves and grass clippings which could and should be used to make new soil.  This would be about 5% under the lowest estimates put out by the EPA for organic waste such as leaves and yard clippings in land fills.  Their estimates range from 20 to as high as 50%, depending upon the area.

On Tuesday we plan to drive around the Firewheel area counting the number of plastic bags put curbside.  We'll randomly sample and weigh representative sizes of some of them. We don't have the resources to rescue all the leaves.  There is just not enough time.  However, we will pick up another load or two each time because we think it's important to display them in the Garland Community Garden so people can have a visual of what (or a least a tiny part of what) goes to the landfill. They will have to use their imaginations to fill in the gap.  Next week we'll do the same thing in the 75040 area and see what we get.  We will work our way through the other zip codes of Garland too.

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Near the bags of leaves and DETAILS sign is our information box for Leaf Awareness Month.  We have flyers inside that describe the problem, some of its consequences and provides some suggestions for solutions.  It's highly likely there is not just one, but perhaps several solutions to this problem.

 

 

 

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