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Stop Bagging Your Leaves and Make Compost Instead

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

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  • Yard trimmings, which include grass, leaves and tree and brush trimmings, accounted for 34.7 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2015, which is 13.3% of total MSW
  • Fallen leaves act as a natural mulch that will break down and fertilize the soil while helping to keep weeds in check
  • While it’s true that a thick layer of leaves can smother your lawn, this is easily remedied by running over them with your lawn mower to create mulch
  • Turtles, toads, birds and mammals such as bats use leaf litter for food, shelter and nesting material; insects, including moth and butterfly caterpillars, also rely on leaf litter to overwinter
  • If you have a compost pile or bin, fallen leaves are a welcome addition and act as “brown material” that should form the bulk of the compost
  • When shredded into small pieces and left on the lawn, different leaf types offer different benefits; maple leaves reduce weed seed germination while honey locust leaves are known for adding nitrogen

Every fall, a significant number of dutiful homeowners get out their rakes, gather leaves into piles and pack them into giant bags to be hauled off to landfills. This yard waste may seem like an innocuous addition to the waste that’s added to U.S. landfills each year, but it quickly adds up.

Yard trimmings, which include grass, leaves, and tree and brush trimmings, accounted for 34.7 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2015, which is 13.3% of total MSW. Some of these yard trimmings ended up being composted via state and municipal programs, but 10.8 million tons of yard trimmings still ended up in landfills that year, comprising 7.8% of MSW added to landfills.


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