October 14, 2014
MADISON - That swish and crunch of autumn leaves underfoot is the sound of opportunity as home composting grows in popularity around the state. By composting and mulching fallen leaves, Wisconsin residents are improving the state's air quality, reducing wildfires and making use of a valuable material that would otherwise go to waste.
Department of Natural Resources officials note that Wisconsin residents continue to compost more and more materials each year. Residents generate more than 500,000 tons of compostable waste materials annually, like yard clippings, leaves, branches and food scraps.
As composting becomes more popular, materials are kept out of landfills and reused to make valuable garden products. Composting also reduces leaf burning in the fall, which means fewer chances of errant sparks starting wildfires and cleaner, healthier air.
"When households use their own leaves for mulch and compost, they can save money on fertilizer and reduce the need for municipal yard waste collection," explains Brad Wolbert, Department of Natural Resources recycling and solid waste chief. "It reduces costs for local governments and families and relieves communities of the hazards of burning."
The DNR provides resources to help Wisconsin residents learn about the economic and environmental benefits of composting and how to start their own compost piles. Free tips and resources for composting are available by searching "compost" at dnr.wi.gov
Leaves are rich in carbon, phosphorus and potassium, which are all essential nutrients needed by plants and turf grasses. Mowing leaves along with the grass during fall can promote healthy, beautiful lawns, and raked leaves can be collected and used as winter ground cover for insulating gardens, tree roots and shrubs.
State air quality and fire rules restrict the open burning of yard materials in Wisconsin. A growing number of communities also have local rules in place that further restrict or prohibit burning of yard waste. Wisconsin residents should check local burn restrictions prior to burning.
There are many easy ways to start a home compost pile. Mixing compostable "browns" - like fallen leaves, dead plants, dried grass clippings and small branches - with "greens" like fresh grass clippings, green plants, fruit, vegetable and bread scraps or coffee grounds produces compost that can be sprinkled on lawns or used in gardens, improving soil properties and providing nutrients that reduce the need for fertilizers.
Dry leaves keep well in plastic bags, and many people keep a few bags of leaves from the fall to add "browns" to their compost piles or mulch to their yards throughout the year.
For more reuse and recycling ideas to use throughout the year, visit dnr.wi.gov and search "recycling for all seasons."
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Wolbert, 608-264-6286