The sight of leaves changing color and falling from trees is a beautiful event to look forward to each fall. However, if not carefully managed, leaves can become harmful to our environment. When it rains, water runs through leaves in the street forming a "leaf-tea" rich in dissolved phosphorus. In urban areas, this “leaf-tea” enters an underground network of pipes called the municipal storm sewer system, which gives the water a direct route to our local waterways. When phosphorous reaches our lakes, rivers and streams, it can lead to toxic algae blooms, low dissolved oxygen levels, and murky water. Phosphorous negatively impacts aquatic life, as well as recreational activities.
Not to worry, there are ways you can help! Leaves left in the street every fall are a major source of phosphorus to urban stormwater runoff, and by simply by removing leaves from the street before a heavy rain event, we can reduce the amount of phosphorus in urban stormwater runoff by almost half!
After you have raked your leaves from the street and your yard, you have a few options. The “greenest” option is to use leaves and other yard waste for mulching or home composting. Mulching is the quickest option, and provides nutrients back to your lawn. Home-made compost can be used to improve the health of your lawn and garden soil.
Another option is to take advantage of the City’s two curbside yardwaste collections in the fall (see the City’s “Solid Waste and Recycling Calendar” for exact dates.) To prepare your leaves for curbside pickup, simply place them in a bag or container and place the bag at the curb by 6:30am on the Monday of the collection week. The lowest footprint would be to use a reusable bag or container. Yardwaste polybags are available to Fitchburg residents at the 2nd floor counter at City Hall. The first bag is free to residents who pay the refuse and recycling special charge on their property tax bill. Additional bags are $2 per bag. Bags are available on a first-come, first served basis. Please contact the main counter at City Hall (608-270-4200) to find out when/if bags are available. The next best option is to use one-time compostable bags, which can be picked up at a local hardware store. One-time use plastic bags are not recommended. Regardless of the bag or container type, please be sure to leave the bags untied so workers can easily identify the bag’s contents. If you are using reusable bags, please leave a weight (such as a brick or large stone) nearby so workers can place the bags under the weight after emptying the contents.
Finally, Fitchburg residents can bring yard waste to Fitchburg’s Recycling Drop-Off Site (2373 S Fish Hatchery Rd). Do not leave bags or containers at the drop-off site.
If you want to encourage others to keep leaves out of the street this fall, please request a FREE yard sign by sending an email to Claudia.Guy@fitchburgwi.gov with the subject, “Leaf-Free Streets Sign Request.” Provide your name and address.
For more information about leaf management and City collection rules, visit https://www.fitchburgwi.gov/2568/Brush-Yard-Waste. Thanks in advance for doing your part to keep our streets and water ways clean!