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Landfill Operator: Forget Bagging those Grass Clippings — Mulch Them!

Rhode Island Resource Recovery is urging residents to mulch those grass clippings and forget bagging.

A mulching lawn mower. (Patch file photo)
A mulching lawn mower. (Patch file photo)
If an alien species were to watch human behavior, they might notice some strange practices.

When it comes to maintaining our lawns, they might see how we often collect grass clippings, which are full of nitrogen, bag them and then hand them off to the landfill.

Then we head to the store, buy bags of fertilizer, which is primarily to add nitrogen to the soil, and spread it all over the grass.

Why not just leave the clippings in place? 

That's a question officials at Rhode Island Resource Recovery are asking Rhode Islanders to consider this year.

It isn’t often that recycling officials want homeowners to do less recycling rather than more. But in the case of grass clippings, the advice is to leave the clippings where they fall. Grass is mostly water so clippings break down quickly when left on the lawn, providing great nutritional value to the lawn. Grass, however, doesn’t breakdown quickly when buried in the Central Landfill, where landfill officials say it takes years to degrade. And all that grass wastes space that can be used for non-organic materials.

“If you are bagging grass, you are throwing away money and wasting your time,” said Sarah Kite-Reeves, director of recycling services at R.I. Resource Recovery. “Nothing is easier than leaving grass clippings right on the lawn. A mulching mower allows you to do that, and you will never have to rake or pay for disposal of the grass clippings. They enrich the lawn because they are loaded with nitrogen, the same ingredient in costly fertilizers, only a lot less toxic and free.”

R.I. Resource Recovery educators teach residents how to reduce the toxicity and volume of trash so that their homes are cleaner and safer, and that the Central Landfill is available only for truly non recyclable, non compostable waste.

Kite-Reeves said that science has proven that clippings do not contribute to a build-up of thatch, the top layer of lawn.

“That’s an oft-cited reason for bagging grass but it’s a myth long disproved,” said Kite-Reeves. “In fact, a little thatch is needed to hold in moisture and maintain a strong root system for the grass.”

“When you trash grass clippings, you aren't doing your lawn or your wallet any favors,” said Kate Venturini, Regenerative Landscape Management Educator and Interim Director of the URI Outreach Center. “A regular mowing schedule and 3-4" grass height will reduce the amount of clippings produced and prevent clumping. If you do miss a mow or cut your lawn shorter than usual, just drive the mower over the clumps to mulch them into smaller pieces. Your lawn will thank you for recycling for it.”

If you have questions about disposing grass or composting, visit rirrc.org or contact the URI Gardening and Environmental Hotline staffed by URI Master Gardeners by calling 800-448-1011 Monday through Thursday from 9-2:00 p.m., or email gardener@etal.uri.edu anytime.

John June 10, 2014 at 10:16 AM
are there any classes on how to properly start a compost that can be used on a veg. garden?
Cyndee Fuller June 11, 2014 at 09:48 AM
URI Outreach Center offers a master composter program (http://www.uri.edu/cels/ceoc/ceoc_programs_mcrp.html) and there are many on-line resources on how to compost, such as http://www.howtocompost.org/n.asp (no connection - just found).

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