Lawrence residents' grass clippings get recycled into compost for city landscaping.
Just as the days grow longer and temperatures warm, a sure sign of spring is the ritual of Lawrence residents dutifully dragging bags and containers filled with grass clippings out to the curb.
The city's collection each Monday of grass clippings and leaves from curbs around town resumed March 1. Last year city crews collected more than 7,800 tons of material, hauled it to the city composting facility and recycled it all into compost for city projects.
"Last year, we picked up over 240,000 containers and bags of grass clippings and leafy material," said Mollie Mangerich, the city's waste reduction and recycling division manager. "That's a lot of compost."
The clippings and leaves go the compost facility, where they are put into long rows, called windrows, to break down. They look like "big piles of dirt."
The windrows are turned, top to bottom, with a front-end loader once or twice a month to keep the material breaking down.
"There's not a lot of odor," Mangerich said. "All the compost is used on city projects."
It is also used to improve soil on top of an old landfill north of Riverfront Park. The city has been composting clippings since 1992.
"More and more cities are getting into city composting," she said. "Lawrence has really been ahead of the curve."
Though the city doesn't offer curbside recycling for items like glass or aluminum, it has targeted wastes like businesses' cardboard and newspaper that make up a large part of the city's trash.
"Yard waste is a large waste," Mangerich said. Reusing it instead of throwing it in a landfill helps Lawrence maintain a 30 percent recycling rate.
"We've just been smart and gone after the biggest components out there," she said.
Only grass clippings and leaves are accepted for composting, but gardeners have another option for their tree prunings and brush clippings.
"Woody material" like tree trimmings, pruning and brushy wood can be taken to the city's chipping facility at 11th and Haskell from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The cost is $2 per vehicle.
"This helps immensely," Mangerich said. "It's really a wise use of materials. ... It helps keep our operation costs down."
Last year, the first year the program was tried, 120 tons of "woody material" was chipped into mulch for city projects.
"We chip everything," Jim Beebe, the city's forestry supervisor, said. "Here we can reuse it. ... Nothing really goes to the landfill anymore."
Grass clippings aren't the only material that can be recycled from the curb. In January, city trucks pick up Christmas trees. In years past, the trees have been used to make wildlife habitat or ground into mulch.
City crews can also pick up old appliances with just a phone call to 832-3022.
"All the metal components are salvaged and recycled," Mangerich said. Last year, 3,600 tons were salvaged.
For those who are happy just hauling their clippings to the corner, Mangerich encourages Lawrence residents to buy compostable bags instead of plastic.
"We're just having to dispose of that," she said. Containers, like metal trash cans, can be used as well. Better yet, Mangerich said, is not bagging clippings at all.
"Mow it and leave it," she said. "(Grass clippings) break down quickly, because they're just about 80 percent water."
-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.