Why homeowners should not burn yard waste

Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable issues release about alternatives to burning yard waste

April is almost here and we are all getting our yards cleaned up for spring.  Before piling your yard waste on the burn pile consider this:

Burning leaves and other yard waste creates air pollution. When leaves or lawn clippings burn, large amounts of particulate matter is released.

Particulate matter is especially harmful to our health. It is difficult to get yard waste dry enough to burn quickly and efficiently and as a result, smoky, smouldering fires are created.

One small fire isn’t too much of a problem, but multiple households burning on a given day can cause significant amounts of smoke in a neighbourhood.

Toxins such as hydrocarbons and gases like carbon monoxide are also released in smoke.

Additionally, backyard burning can start structure fires and forest fires, even when well-tended.

There are a couple of options besides burning leaves and yard waste.

Composting creates a rich additive to gardens (see below for an easy method).

Leaves can also be raked, and then mowed over several times to chop them up. They can be left right on the lawn or spread on gardens as a mulch.

For flower or vegetable beds, put down a two to three inch layer of chopped yard waste.

This will help the soil retain moisture, keep weeds from sprouting and assist with keeping soil temperature constant.

Leaves and other yard waste can also be taken to the municipal landfill. There is no charge for small amounts (pickup loads or less).

Separated material is put aside in an area reserved for yard waste where it will eventually break down (but is not actively composted).

If you feel like burning your spring yard waste is your only option, there are a few things you can do to minimize the effects:

• be aware of bylaws (the City of Quesnel does not allow burning of yard waste without a permit) and provincial open-burning regulations;

• avoid burning when an inversion is occurring;

• never burn plastics, tires, toxic materials or other garbage;

• make sure material is dry and do not allow the fire to smoulder.

Garbage Bag Mulch

One of the easiest ways to create fantastic mulch is to use a garbage bag.

Shred the dry leaves thoroughly using your lawn mower.

Then place the shredded material and lawn clippings in a black garbage bag (black will help keep the contents warm, speeding the process), along with a few handfuls of soil and/or manure (contains helpful microorganisms.)

Moisten the mixture with water – it should feel like a wrung-out sponge, and then just wait.

To help speed the process, shake the bag once in awhile to mix things up.

In a few months the leaves will have transformed into a great material for adding to flower and vegetable gardens.

It can be used as a top-dressing or dug into the soil.

Contact the Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable at Nature Education and Resource Centre, 250-992-5833 or visit www.quesnelairshed.org.