Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good Yard Care Practices Help Protect Washington Waters

By Brook Beeler, environmental educator, Office of Communication and Education

Mulch or compost clippings and prevent them from
entering our waters causing pollution
Gardening season has kicked into high gear in Washington and with all that lawn care comes oodles and oodles of grass clippings and other garden debris. For many, managing all those clippings can be overwhelming. There are a few great ways to dispose of clippings and a few not so great ways. Proper disposal is important for protecting our water.

Disposing of grass clippings the wrong way can add up to big pollution problems. Really! Also, placing yard waste near storm drains or directly into local lakes, streams, wetlands, and bays is illegal. This practice can:
  • Block storm drains and cause flooding.
  • Lead to harmful algae blooms from excessive growth of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • Smother spawning beds of fish and destroy habitat for other aquatic life.
  • Suppress native aquatic plants that support a healthy ecosystem.
  • Cause depletion of oxygen and provide an opportunity for non-native plants to grow in their place such as Eurasion Watermilfoil and Brazilian Elodea.
  • Lead to sickness in animals and humans if the clippings or yard waste is treated with fertilizers or pesticides.
Believe it or not we get several complaints each year of folks dumping their grass clippings and other yard waste directly into our lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound. You can report these activities or other environmental problems at our reporting portal.

Rather than dumping grass clippings there are many benefits of turning them into compost, which reduces waste. It also:
  • Builds healthy soil for plants and gardens.
  • Saves time and money by reducing the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides.
  • Builds rich soil that absorbs run-off and breaks down urban pollutants such as oil, grease, metals, fertilizers and pesticides that harm fish in urban streams or Puget Sound.
  • Improves landscape appearance.
If composting isn’t something you have the time or space to do, here are a few other options for disposing yard waste properly:
  • Place in curbside yard waste container provided by your waste hauler.
  • Drop off at a yard debris collection site. Contact your local public works or solid waste department for details.
  • Mow grass without a lawnmower bag and leave clippings to naturally decompose. Doing so will not produce thatch.
You can learn more about natural yard care and other ways to protect our waters on our Washington Waters website.

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