Mayor Don Wesely and city recycling officials remind Lincoln residents that beginning April 1, yard waste cannot be mixed with household trash headed for the city landfill. State law prohibits disposal of grass and leaves in landfills between April 1 and November 30, and communities that violate the law are subject to a fine of $5,000 a day.
"The law prompted the city to start a very successful composting program, now in its eighth year," Mayor Wesely said. "Because of the state law and our composting program, we have saved landfill space and money and produced a very beneficial product."
In the first seven years of the program, the city has diverted 98,300 tons of grass and leaves and 159,300 tons of brush from the landfill. That includes the wood chips resulting from the 1993 and 1997 storms. On average, the compost facility receives over 14,500 tons of grass and leaves and 6,500 tons of brush per growing season. Over the last seven years, composting has added about 1.6 years to the landfill's life. If the current levels continue over the remaining life of the landfill, another 5.7 years will be added to its life.
The only approved containers for yard waste are paper lawn bags, 32-gallon containers with tight fitting lids or larger containers provided by the waste hauler. Many local waste haulers can provide 90-gallon carts for grass and leaves that are emptied mechanically to reduce injuries.
"Those who mix grass and leaves with household trash or who use plastic bags instead of the approved waste containers or paper bags for yard waste, may have the material left at their curbs with a card explaining why," said Mike Palmer, President of the Lincoln Solid Waste Management Association. "They may also have the material left if they use containers larger than 32 gallons because these are very difficult to empty manually without the risk of injury."
"Yard waste is defined as grass and leaves, and that includes material such as crab grass and pine needles," said Gene Hanlon, City Recycling Coordinator. "Tree trimmings, brush and garden waste can be collected with yard waste, but the tree trimmings must be smaller that one inch in diameter and be bundled in lengths of four to five feet."
Those who do not wish to have grass and leaves collected separately by the garbage haulers have three options: haul the yard waste themselves to the 48th Street Transfer Station, hire a lawn service or mulch and compost their grass and leaves. A series of backyard composting workshops are held each month, and a schedule is available by calling the Lancaster County Cooperative Extension Service at 441-7180. A free backyard composting bin is given to each participant in the workshop.