Chippers, shredders and other ways to dispose of yard waste

Getting Rid of Yard Waste

by Debra Karplus

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No matter what season it is, you always seem to have a surplus of yard waste. Each year, disposing of grass clippings, leaves, small twigs, larger branches, and other yard debris seems like more strenuous work. This task makes you well aware that you're not getting any younger! There must be a better way to get rid of yard waste.

In olden days, people simply tossed yard waste in with the kitchen trash for the garbage man to haul away and dump somewhere or burned yard waste. Leaf burning became a fun Saturday afternoon family activity and nobody seemed to complain. Life was simpler then.

In recent years, legislators determined that burning leaves polluted the air and created serious problems for people with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory maladies. Burning was banned in most urban areas, and landfills were filling up too quickly; consequently yard waste needed to stay out of the landfills. These relatively new laws presented challenges to homeowners for yard waste disposal.

So what are your options for yard waste? You want to balance saving time and saving your back from all that labor, while stretching your dollars. You need to evaluate how much and what kinds of yard waste you have, such as grass clippings, leaves, trimming from bushes and garden, or bigger branches.

For a small initial output of cash, you can dispose of your yard waste legally and safely.

Composting is a terrific, relatively free way to use yard waste. It is great for leaves, brush, and very small branches, but doesn't work well with larger pieces. You'll need to cut them smaller or find some other place to dispose of them. The bi-product of organic fertilizer makes composting a desirable use for most yard waste.

A mulching mower costs approximately $150, plus the expense of gasoline to operate the mower each time you use it. Besides mowing your lawn, it allows grass clippings to remain in the grass; that's good for the lawn, and also easy for you. Additionally, it grinds leaves and small pieces of garden waste and trimmings from small bushes if they're not in a thick pile; otherwise, they'll clog your mower.

Some communities have regular yard waste pick-up dates. Typically, they require the debris to be left on the parkway on certain dates in bags specific for yard waste. Expect these bags to cost about $3 each. If you have much yard waste, this expense increases quickly. Many people also invest in a yard blower, approximately $55, to blow the leaves into these bags, finding this method easier on the body than using a rake. It's typically an affordable way to dispose of yard waste, but it is very labor intensive. Calculate the value of your time to determine if this method suits you.

If your town has a yard waste recycling center, consider yourself lucky. Simply load your pick-up truck with branches and brush, drive across town to the center, pay the dumping fee, and leave your yard waste. They'll likely grind it into usable mulch and sell it to other folks.

There is affordable yard equipment that eases the task of yard waste disposal while creating valuable garden mulch.

If you're willing to make larger initial cash investment, you can purchase a mulcher, shredder, or chipper to ease your labor in the yard. The advantages to using this equipment are that you'll typically have fewer ongoing expenses and you'll create mulch to add to your garden or shrubbery. If you have a great deal of yard waste each season, it may be worth the money to invest in powerful equipment.

An electric leaf mulcher costs about $150. You get what you pay for with these. Expect this device to handle nothing much larger than leaves. A wood shredder-chipper handles much larger pieces including branches, but costs more. Expect to pay $200 or more for electric and $900 for gas-powered.

Safety precautions are crucial when using powerful tools in the yard. Remember to keep long hair pulled back tightly, wear protective goggles or eyewear, and always use work gloves. Images from the 1996 film Fargo should be a good reminder of the power of serious yard equipment.

Since you don't use mulchers, shredders, and chippers on a daily basis, you may want to purchase one as a timeshare with a group of trustworthy neighbors. In the long run, this may be the best dollar-stretching method for disposing of yard waste. Since this equipment uses the square footage similar to a lawn mower, you'll need to consider storage.

Electric equipment is usually cheaper than gas-powered but often has less power. You'll need to decide how much power you actually need. Search online, talk to the experts at your local garden center or home improvement store, and talk to neighbors to determine your best option for disposing yard waste now and in the future.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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