When I’m out paddleboarding in the early morning, I often remove bottles, chip wrappers and those now-famous red Solo cups from the serene lake waters I am traversing. Some of the junk I find is tougher to remove, however.
Gardening season has kicked into high gear in Washington, and it seems many people are tempted to just dump their garden debris and grass clippings into a nearby lake, stream, bay or wetland. This type of junk isn’t quite as easy to lean down and scoop up onto my board – and it’s gross.
Proper disposal of grass clippings and other yard waste is important for protecting our water.
In fact, disposing of grass clippings the wrong way can add up to big pollution problems. It can cause you headaches as well -- placing yard waste near storm drains or directly into local lakes, streams, wetlands, and bays is illegal!
Here’s why tossing yard waste in the water isn’t a good idea.
- 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.
- Create low-oxygen conditions 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.
Each year, the Department of Ecology gets complaints about folks dumping their grass clippings and other yard waste directly into our lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound. Get information on reporting environmental problems here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/reportenviroproblem.html.
Here’s a better way. Turn those grass clippings into compost. You’ll reduce waste and get these benefits:
- Healthier soil for plants and gardens.
- Save time and money by reducing the need for water, fertilizer and pesticides.
- Build 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.
- Improve landscape appearance.
If you don’t have the time or space for composting, consider these options:
- Place your grass clippings in the curbside yard waste container provided by your waste hauler.
- Drop off yard wastes 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 Ecology’s Washington Waters website.