Yard waste is a major contributor to landfills. Recyclable yard materials such as grass clippings, tree leaves, and plant trimmings occupy 15 to 20 percent of landfill space, second only to paper.
Although this waste is biodegradable, landfills do not get the oxygen and water needed for breakdown. Landfills are constructed to prevent movement of air and moisture in order to protect the surrounding environment.
To help meet the state’s waste reduction goals, Indiana legislation mandates that most landfills can no longer accept certain types of yard waste. In addition, outdoor burning has been banned by most urban communities, eliminating another once popular method of yard waste disposal. This means that residents have to find alternate methods for disposing of yard wastes.
An excellent way to dramatically reduce yard waste is to leave grass clippings on the lawn rather than bagging them for disposal. The amount of grass clippings generated from a given lawn varies, but one estimate indicates that 5,000 square feet of lawn generates about 1 ton of clippings per year! Grass clippings left on the lawn are not harmful to the turf if it is mowed at the proper height and frequency. In fact, the clippings will return some nutrients back to the soil, reducing fertilizer requirements. Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not contribute to thatch buildup because they break down quite rapidly. Thatch is composed of dead, decomposing roots, and underground stems.
Maintain the lawn at a height of about 2 ½ to 3 inches, removing no more than 1/3 of the grass blade during each cutting. This will likely mean mowing more often than once a week, but mowing time is greatly reduced when clippings are not collected. Mow only when the lawn is dry to prevent clippings from matting. If the lawn is excessively tall when mowed, you should remove the clipping and either use as mulch or add to a compost pile.