Denver leaves go from yard waste to compost

Program helps remove nearly 900 tons of leaves from landfills


Going green (or greener)? Then consider participating in the annual Denver LeafDrop program that’s happening now, and you may help keep tons of stuff out of landfills and boost your garden’s production.

See all those leaves on your lawn and in the street? You can stuff them into environmentally friendly paper bags supplied by LeafDrop, and they’ll eventually become part of the popular EcoGro Compost, which is great for gardens. Leaves can be dropped off at collection sites or placed in residents’ Denver Compost carts.

Last year, the city collected about 889 tons of leaves, which is the equivalent of 2,000 cubic yards of compost. LeafDrop has been around since 1997.

“We want to make sure leaves get picked up,” said Megan Lane, program administrator for Denver Recycles, a program of the Solid Waste Management Division under the Public Works Department. “Instead of residents putting bags of leaves at the curb, where they would be taken to a landfill, we’re trying to encourage residents to sign up for our composting program.”

Compost can also be a gardener’s best friend.

“Unless you have healthy soil, your plants won’t thrive,” said Jennifer Miller, a horticulturist at Denver Botanic Gardens.

Colorado has a lot of clay soil and sandy soil, neither good for growing plants.

“Compost creates good soil structure, helps germinate seeds and allows roots to grow in soil,” Miller said. “In addition, compost increases microbial activity, which makes plants healthy.”

Denver resident Maggie Thompson top-dresses her lawn twice a year with EcoGro Compost.

“It makes my lawn require less water,” she said. “With our clay soil, it helps my soil be less dense. It also provides good nutrition and probiotic qualities.”

Denver Recycles, Ace Hardware and the forestry section of Denver Parks and Recreation (through the Be A Smart Ash campaign) team up to provide the leaf bags. They are giving away free five-packs of 30-gallon paper leaf bags.

Brown paper bags, unlike plastic bags, can be composted along with the leaves, thus reducing plastic waste and saving time. The Be A Smart Ash campaign is designed to help residents identify ash trees and take steps to prevent them from being damaged by the emerald ash borer beetle.

The program offered about 5,000 packs annually up until last year, when that number jumped to 12,000.

Denver Recycles said that organic material — such as leaves, branches, grass clippings and food scraps — comprises about 50% of what Denver residents send to the landfill annually.


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