Yard waste is a thorny problem

March 10, 1997


Staff Writer

John Lenahan tries to be considerate of the trash haulers, so he only rakes a couple of bags' worth of leaves and grass each week from his Forest Drive yard in Hagerstown.

Lenahan said he doesn't really mind having to put his yard waste out separately instead of getting it picked up with his regular trash as it used to.

"It worked out very well last year ... I think they do a good job of collecting," Lenahan said.

All across the Tri-State area, as unseasonably warm weather ignites spring fever, a homeowner's fancy turns to thoughts of what to do with yard waste.


The answer depends upon where in the Tri-State area that homeowner lives. The options range from convenient curbside pickup to leaving the waste at a drop-off point.

The City of Hagerstown adopted a separate weekly yard waste pickup system after Washington County banned brush, grass cuttings and other yard debris from the Sanitary Landfill in August 1995 and diverted it instead to the new Rubble Landfill, City Engineer Bruce Johnston said.

That meant that the city could not continue to pick up yard waste in plastic bags along with other trash, so the special collection schedule was devised, Johnston said.

"We typically run it April through November," he said.

But this year yard waste pickup will begin this week, three weeks early, because of the warm weather.

Hagerstown residents can put their yard waste in brown paper lawn and leaf bags or reusable containers and leave them on the curb after 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, for pickup early Wednesday morning, officials said.

Last year the city collected 1,115 tons of yard waste at a cost of about $63,000, Johnston said.

The county did give the city break, charging the city $35 a ton to dump yard waste in the Rubble Landfill instead of the $45 a ton it would cost at the Sanitary Landfill, he said.

Yard waste has been banned from the Sanitary Landfill in order to extend its life, Washington County Recycling Coordinator Harvey Hoch said.

"Yard waste represents about 18 percent of the material that goes into a landfill" where, because of the lack of oxygen and other conditions, it doesn't rot, he said.

Audrey Starsinic, of Donnybrook Drive in the county, doesn't mind not getting yard waste pickup with her other trash pickup because she has found someone to come to her house and take it, she said.

"He's very reasonable," Starsinic said.

County residents can either pay private haulers to take their yard waste away or they can take it to the Rubble Landfill themselves, Hoch said.

Haulers reluctant

Private haulers have been reluctant to pick up yard waste. Last year that service "was fairly expensive," Hoch said.

Diane Dorsey, sales manager for Waste Management of Shenandoah Valley, said that in 1996 the company tried to run a special truck one day a month from April to November for yard waste pickup, at an additional cost to customers, but "the volume really wasn't there."

Waste Management also has stopped picking up yard waste in Berkeley County, W.Va., as of Jan. 1, when a new state law banned the dumping of yard waste in West Virginia landfills, Dorsey said.

Waste Management is working on a possible plan for yard waste pickup. Berkeley County is considering opening a yard waste drop-off site, she said.

The Martinsburg City Council will hear a preliminary proposal on Thursday from its yard waste committee, City Manager Mark Baldwin said.

"They will be proposing that residents who wish to bag yard waste ... dispose of that yard waste by transporting it themselves to drop-off sites," Baldwin said.

City residents used to be able to put yard waste out with their regular trash, he said. Since Jan. 1, the city has picked it up in a separate collection and mulched it.

But it would require buying at least one new vehicle and hiring possibly two more employees to continue the extra curbside pickup, Baldwin said.

Under the yard waste committee's proposal the city would sell residents biodegradable bags for about $2 for a roll of 10 bags, he said.

A drop-off site at the city public works facility on Boston Street would be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Another drop-off site at the recycling center on Stephen Street would be open Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Baldwin said.

The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority is developing a plan for a drop-off center for yard waste and other recyclables at the old landfill off Grapevine Road, County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm said.

It would be open from April to November and in January for Christmas tree recycling.

Chambersburg, Pa., residents still have curbside yard waste pickup, a borough official said.

Some Washington County, Berkeley County and other Tri-State area residents also have the option of burning their yard waste as long as they meet certain conditions, officials said.

But burning brush and leaves denies the soil of valuable nutrients that can be recycled through processes like mulching and composting, Hoch noted.

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