When the leaves begin to change, we know it’s the start of a new season. While we love fall for all of the cool-weather coziness it brings, it does mean our lawns will soon be riddled with fallen leaves. Lots and lots of leaves.
Leaves can be fun to walk in and even jump into on occasion, but raking leaves is hard work and they do tend to clutter and clog up sidewalks, gutters, and storm drains. You want your commercial property to look its best year-round, no matter the season. When leaves begin to pile up, it becomes a distraction to potential residents and clients. With routine leaf removal, you can ensure your property looks polished and put together! But, where do these leaves go after they’re bagged and removed from the property?
The truth is, they don’t simply disappear into thin air, and what leaf removal companies do with them can have a profound impact on our environment.
We tend to take leaves for what they are, but what exactly are they? Photosynthesis is a process by which a plant absorbs sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen and energy. The leaves which adorn the ends of tree branches are actually the organs they use to perform this very important task! So, why do some trees shed their leaves?
When cooler weather comes along, leaves begin to dry and fall to the ground. This happens because the tree is conserving its energy until warmer seasons, where it will use that energy to create new leaves and start the process over again.
Leaves, Leaves, Go Away
As a property manager, leaf litter mean mess. They cover the lawn, clog gutters, stain sidewalks, and a layer of leaves can even present a slip hazard when wet for long periods of time. Image and appearance are critical to attracting tenants and visitors, and leaves that accumulate on turf areas can quickly suffocate the delicate grass below. When it comes to leaf removal, commercial landscape contractors are directed to simply make this seasonal nuisance disappear.
Leaving Leaves (When We Can)
Apartment communities, retail centers, and office complexes don’t typically have on site locations where leaves can be stored, added to a compost pile, or decomposed. In these situations, leaves have to be removed to maintain a neatly manicured landscape. There are other types of commercial properties like HOAs, schools, or military institutions that may have the space to create a composting location. Regardless of which category of we may service, there are steps that can be taken to recycle this very valuable resource.
- Mow grass using mulching kits or gator blades – These are modifications to a standard mowing deck that essentially suck leaves up and pulverize them before returning them to the soil surface. By chopping the leaves into smaller pieces, it speeds up the decomposition process. As the leaves break down, they return vital nutrients back to the root zone of the turf and can actually help to enhance the overall turf health.
- Leave the leaves in the woodlines– Allowing the leaves to blanket the ground and go through the natural process of decomposition helps to support the natural ecosystems that exist. Leaves become food for the microbes in the soil and in turn, these microbes return vital nutrients to the soil which are later absorbed by tree and understory plant roots thereby completing the cycle.
- Don’t dump leaves– Don’t allow residents or your landscape contractor to put leaves and other landscape debris into a dumpster. Make sure they are employing good environmental practices.
Where Do Leaves Go?
It would seem like commercial leaf removal would be the easiest thing a contractor does each year. It’s just blowing leaves into a pile and sucking them up, right? That’s where the story ends. Or does it? There’s one important logistical challenge to overcome, and that is what to do with the leaves once the truck is loaded.
The facts are these – an average of 13.3% of municipal waste is produced in the United States is yard debris, but the number of landfills in the US has decreased by 75% over the past 25 years.
So, what happens to all of the waste, trash, and debris? In a traditional landfill situation, leaves are buried and the decomposition of the leaves alongside other trash emits harmful methane gas into the atmosphere.
Many locations no longer allow recyclable materials to be buried, but there are some that allow this (for a price) to offset the costs of recycling these materials.
The environmental impacts coupled with the rising costs of disposal forced Complete Landscaping to look for another solution – one where the costs could be mitigated and one where we could benefit from the nutrient-rich product we were dealing with!
In-House Recycle Programs
Recycling leaves should be standard practice. Nearly two decades ago, we created a location at our corporate headquarters to collect and process yard debris from the services that we performed annually. This includes grass clippings, branches and tree trimming debris, and, of course, leaves. Leaves no longer go into municipal waste dumpsters or get taken to county or state facilities for recycling. It’s another way we are providing Green Peace of Mind.
Leaves removed from our commercial clients’ sites are brought back to our recycling facility where they are ground, filtered, stacked and allowed to decompose into leaf compost. This leaf compost is then pH balanced and returned to the landscape in the form of leaf compost and soil amendments. These products are added to landscaping beds, used to topdress turf areas during restoration or establishment, and mixed with other organics to create a potting mix for custom grown container plants. From the first season until now, the recycling facility has grown to approximately 4 acres and processes thousands of yards of leaves into compost each season!