Yard Waste News for Monday's Free Pick-Up

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Friday, April 29, 2016, 10:40 am
Alice Dreger


Monday (May 2, 2016) marks the last no-fee yard waste pick-up for East Lansing this spring, so today we’re bringing you information about yard-waste management with the help of Cathy DeShambo, Environmental Services Administrator for the City, including an answer to an ELi reader’s question about why yard waste pick-up is not free as the pick-up of refuse and recycling is.

First, some news from DeShambo:

The new single-stream recycling program seems to be causing yard-waste problems for the City. A lot of residents are throwing out much less material in the trash cans because it’s now much easier to recycle. Apparently, some residents are seeing the extra space in their trash cans as a good place for yard waste.

It’s not. DeShambo says such people “likely do not realize that it is illegal in Michigan to dispose of yard waste in a landfill.” She adds, “We have seen enough of this that we have begun checking carts and will be leaving notes for residents.”

There are only two instances in which you can put plant waste in the trash can:

One is if it is a very small amount; DeShambo gives the example of a potted plant. The other is if you’re dealing with pulling out an invasive species or a toxic plant, like poison ivy. DeShambo explains that “residents should place invasive and toxic plants in plastic garbage bags, secure tightly, and place in refuse,” that is, in your City-issued trash can.

So why isn’t yard-waste pick-up free all season long, given that this would discourage people from “cheating” and putting yard waste in the trash cans?

DeShambo explains that “City bags and stickers serve as a form of cost recovery. We actually refer to ‘free’ days as ‘no fee’ yard waste. We do encourage residents to reduce their yard waste by grasscycling or mulching or composting. We have a page dedicated to these tips on the City's website.”

In other words, the City is trying to encourage residents to let grass clippings fall to the ground, to use leaves and such for mulch, and to compost all forms of vegetable matter on their properties. This is good for the environment (not least because you don’t need a City truck to transport the material) and also saves us all money in property taxes.

Says DeShambo, “We more often get asked why residents have to register for a yard waste pick up on the non-no fee Mondays.” The answer? “Being able to map out and travel only to those residences that need a pick-up is a far more efficient use of time and resources than driving the whole City looking for yard waste. We save wear and tear on streets, gas, and staff time by being able to go directly to those residences that have made the request.”

She adds, “Certainly as we continue to evolve our programs, we will continue to look at ways that we can provide the services our residents need and expect in the most efficient and convenient ways possible.”

There are three ways to package your yard-waste for pick-up:

  1. Put it in a City of East Lansing paper yard waste bag. You can buy these special waste bags at the Hannah Community Center, at the Department of Public Works (1800 E. State Road), and at City Hall. If you need to buy them on the weekend, try the front desk at Hannah.
  2. You can also put the materials in a rigid plastic container, no bigger than 32 gallons, or in a paper yard waste bag that you get at a hardware store or the grocery store. In both of these cases if it is not a no-fee day, you need to buy and stick a City of East Lansing yard waste sticker on the plastic container or paper bag. (You’re not allowed to use your Easy Cart trash can or recycling can for this.) You can buy the stickers at all the same places: Hannah Community Center, Department of Public Works, and City Hall. If it is a no-fee day, then you can use a plastic container and paper bags bought from stores without attaching a sticker. Do not exceed 40 pounds per container.
  3. Bundle up sticks, using string or twine, and attach a City yard waste sticker if it is not a no-fee day. The City says, “Bundles may not be more than four feet long and one foot in diameter and must weigh no more than 40 pounds. Individual limbs must be four inches in diameter or less.”


Want to know more about yard waste management? Check out our “Ask ELi” from last year on this topic.


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