The colorful canopy of leaves enhancing Grand Rapids neighborhoods will soon fall to the ground, prompting residents to begin cleaning up yards for winter. As residents break out their rakes, City officials want to remind citizens of the proper way to dispose of leaves.

City residents have several alternatives for cleaning up leaves including:

  • Using “Don’t Bag It!” techniques and composting them back into the lawn
  • Participating in Grand Rapids’ Yard Waste Program
  • Dropping off leaves and other yard waste free of charge at the 2001 Butterworth SW site

Improper disposal includes:

  • Raking leaves and other debris into the street
  • Burning or throwing leaves into household trash

Don’t Bag It!

During the fall and early winter, when lawns stop growing and the rake replaces the lawnmower, tree leaves become a major component of lawn waste. A light covering of leaves can be mowed, leaving shredded leaves on the lawn. This technique is most effective when using a mulching mower. During times of light leaf drop, this technique is probably the most efficient and easiest way to manage leaf accumulation.

Mulching is also a simple and effective way to recycle leaves and improve landscaping. Mulching reduces evaporation from soil surface, inhibits weed growth, moderates soil temperatures, keeps soil from eroding and crusting and prevents soil compaction. Leaves can be used as mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds, and around shrubs and trees. Mowed and shredded leaves will decompose faster and will be more likely to remain in place than unshredded leaves.

Grand Rapids Yard Waste Program

Yard waste may also be disposed through the City of Grand Rapids’ Yard Waste Program. Yard waste collection takes place on the same day as normal refuse collection starting early April through the 2nd Friday in December. The City asks all residents to place their yard waste out to the curb by 7 a.m.

There are three options of yard waste removal within the City:

-     Yard Waste Cart (grass clippings, leaves, etc.)

  • 96 Gallon Cart - $27.50 one-time fee 
Yellow Yard Waste Cart Tag - $6 each empty
  • Sign-up by mail using the printable form at us or in-person at City Hall, 300 Monroe Avenue NW

-     City Yard Waste Paper Bag
 (grass clippings, leaves, etc.)

  • $2.50 each or $12.50 for a package of five
  • Yard waste materials cannot weigh more than 30 pounds

-     Purple Bulk Yard Waste Tag
 (bundled branches and twigs)

  • $2.50 each
  • Bulk yard waste materials must be tagged and tied
  • Yard waste materials cannot weigh more than 30 pounds
  • Bundled yard waste cannot exceed four (4) feet in length and under two inches in diameter

City yard waste paper bags and tags may be purchased at the Customer Service Lobby at City Hall, located at 300 Monroe Avenue NW. Hours of operation Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. - ½ hour paid parking provided if parking in Government Center Ramp.  Many Grand Rapids neighborhood stores may carry them as well (call ahead before you go).

Yard Waste Collection Site

The City of Grand Rapids offers a free drop-off site for yard waste at 2001 Butterworth Avenue SW. The site is free for City residents who provide proof of residency. Acceptable items include leaves, brush and tree branches. The days of operation are Monday through Saturday during the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The site is open from early April through mid-December. Commercial dumping is not permitted.

Never Rake Leaves into the Street

Public Services Director James Hurt said because Grand Rapids doesn’t have a loose leaf curbside collection program like some neighboring communities, it is important to keep the streets clean of leaves to prevent clogged catch basins. The City does begin street sweeping in November to clear leaves that naturally fall into the roadway, but it is illegal for residents to rake, pile, or blow leaves or tree branches into the streets or storm drain.  These activities are a violation of the City Code.

Hurt said moving leaves into the street poses headaches for neighbors and the City.

“Leaves cause a problem. They block our storm sewer basins and can cause ponding, flooding and icing conditions as we move into the winter,” he said.

Residents can assist in resolving these issues by raking up the leaves that have accumulated along their curb and sidewalk several times during the fall. Volunteering and participating in the City’s Basin Buddies Program and adopting a catch basin can also earn residents myGRCity points.

"If leaves or other debris are blocking a catch basin inlet near your house or business, please remove and dispose of the debris properly," Hurt said. "In addition, during the winter months, try to maintain the openings to catch basins by clearing away any snow or ice. Your assistance in removing debris from these catch basin openings will greatly reduce ponding water during storm events."

Never trash or burn your leaves

Residents are reminded that Michigan law prohibits leaves added to regular trash. It is also against City ordinance to burn leaves. Burning leaves releases large amounts of air pollution, can cause breathing problems for sensitive groups and lead to long-term health effects.

For additional information about Grand Rapids’ Yard Waste Program or Basin Buddies Program, please visit www.grcity.us. If you have any questions, please call 311 or dial (616) 456-3000.