Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018
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City races to collect, compact, compost lingering fall leaves


City crews collect leaves at Naples and Carskaddon.

The Blade/Lori King
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An army of workers throughout the Toledo region is rushing to collect miles of fallen and mashed-up leaves lingering on city, suburban, and rural roadways.

“So far, Mother Nature has cooperated, and the leaves fell early,” said Ed Moore, Toledo’s director of public service.

By the end of the city’s six-week blitz, it will have an additional 300,000 cubic yards of leaves to compact down to a third of that size and then compost for two years.

“The leaves we picked up in 2010 will be ready to be used as topsoil next year in spring,” Mr. Moore said. “As of fall, 2010, we started composting our own leaves.”

The city this year received a $100,000 state grant to study the creation of a regional composting facility.

In the past, Toledo was hampered by snow and ice that covered leaves before its crews could collect the majority. This year, 150 city employees and 20 seasonal workers are out collecting with 50 trucks.

Toledo’s trees typically shed about 300,000 cubic yards of leaves every fall. And city officials annually remind residents that branches, yard waste, and other foreign matter should not be included in leaf piles.

The city Monday updated its progress and announced that it would continue the 2012 leaf collection program this week in the curbed streets of 43614 and 43615 ZIP codes and the uncurbed streets of 43623. Collection for the curbed streets of the 43613 and 43623 areas has concluded.

As always, the city recommends leaves be raked to the edge of the pavement on uncurbed streets and up to the curb on curbed streets.

“Residents are asked not to place leaves on any boulevard or cul-de-sac islands,” city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said. “Only loose leaves will be collected. General yard waste, including brush, sticks, or bags of leaves or grass clippings will not be picked up and if mixed in with loose leaves can cause damage to city equipment resulting in delays in service.”

Toledo uses two basic methods for leaf pickup.

On curbed residential streets, teams of front-end loaders work together to push and scoop leaf piles into huge mounds that are then dumped into dump trucks or converted garbage trucks called “packers.” Workers with leaf blowers blow leaves missed at curbside into the street for the loaders to gather during a second pass.

Once all that is done, street sweepers follow up to gather any leaves the big machines left behind. Sometimes, the sweepers don’t arrive for a day or two, which can prompt residents to complain about the mess that remains until then.

On uncurbed streets and on major arteries where a loader team would tie up traffic, the city sends out vacuum trucks. It is with those that foreign material in leaf piles is the biggest problem.

Ms. Sorgenfrei noted that street-sweeper operators are scheduled to work the weekends, especially during leaf collection time, without overtime.

Most area communities take leaves to their own municipal compost sites or to privately owned composting facilities.

The city of Maumee has operated its own compost site for 18 years, said Joe Camp, director of public service. City crews pick up 350 to 400 truckloads of leaves every fall, for an average of 4,000 to 4,500 cubic yards of leaves. Like other communities that have their own compost sites, Maumee then offers leaf mulch and wood mulch to residents at no cost, Mr. Camp said.

Waterville takes about 3,000 cubic yards of leaves a season to Clean Wood Recycling Facility, which operates a yard-waste facility on city-owned land along the Anthony Wayne Trail. Asked how big a cubic yard of leaves is, Kenny Blair, Waterville’s public works director, said, “It’s a lot of leaves.”

Perrysburg collected 716 tons of leaves last year. “That’s eight weeks of nonstop collection,” Greg Kuhr, superintendent of lands and sanitation, said. Most of the leaves go to the city’s compost site, though some are deposited with a private landscaper at no cost to the city. “What we take in we actually get rid of,” Mr. Kuhr said. “We give it right back to the public. We have a site where the public can come and take as much as they want — either leaf compost or wood mulch — for free.”

The village of Swanton contracts with Lammon Brothers of Delta, whose crews drive through several times a week, picking up leaves raked to the curb through Dec. 7. The firm takes the leaves to its composting facility on Fulton County Road 5, Jon Gochenour, Swanton’s village administrator, said.

Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: or 419-724-6129.

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