Keep it neat…no leaves and grass in the street

Keep Durham Beautiful encourages responsible leaf management this fall
Nov. 27, 2013 @ 12:26 AM

It’s so tempting to just blow or rake leaves directly into the street and out of your yards.

You’re probably thinking, why keep leaves and grass clippings off the street? The answer is simple. It’s very bad for our water quality and can create hazardous street conditions. Leaves and grass clippings clog storm drains, causing flooding during storms both in the streets and in our waterways.

Leaves in storm drains also contribute unwanted nutrients into streams and lakes, which ultimately decreases our water quality. Storm drains empty directly into nearby surface waters without treatment, making it imperative that only rainwater enters them.

If that were notenough to convince you to properly dispose of your leaves, keep in mind that leaves in our streets causes our community to look untidy. More important, City of Durham’s street sweepers could come along and suck up the leaves. This may seem helpful, but in fact, the leaves make the sweepers less efficient by forcing them to work harder to collect litter and debris beneath the leaves. Debris collected by street sweepers is not compostable in the same way leaves are. As a result of litter contamination, it is considered “municipal solid waste” and must go into the landfill with other trash.

Durham street sweepers collected 6.4 million pounds of debris last year. While this is an important way to clear litter and debris from our streets, it is no substitute for prevention. Residents can help by keeping the street and drains near their property clean and clear of litter, leaves and grass clippings.

How can you dispose of leaves properly?

-- Compost your leaves on your own property. In mowing season, leave grass clippings on your lawn to act as fertilizer.

-- Hire a yard service that properly disposes of leaves. 

-- Take your leaves to the City of Durham transfer station for a prorated fee of $26.50 per ton.

-- City residents can become yard waste customers and rent a cart for a $78 annual fee. Yard waste customers may place up to 10 additional biodegradable brown bags filled with leaves alongside yard waste carts each week.

-- County residents with a current 2013 decal can dispose of yard waste at the Bahama, Redwood, and Parkwood Convenience Sites. Visit the County’s website at for more information.

Remember, burning leaves is not allowed in the city or county due to fire hazard and air quality concerns.

Leaves and other yard waste collected from city yard waste customers are ground up for volume reduction and transported to another compost facility that turns them into valuable products such as fertilizer amendments.

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful that engages and inspires individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. To learn more, visit to sign up for our newsletter. Be sure to like us at or follow us at