Sanitation experts tell all: The dirt on leaf collection

Assan Salley, left, and Bryant Williams collect leaves and brush for Asheville Sanitation.


Pitch in to help City of Asheville Sanitation staff
do their job more safely and efficiently


Those colorful trees decorating Asheville’s yards and streets will soon shed their leaves, transforming their beauty into the dreaded task of yardwork.

Dealing with all those leaves can be daunting!

Just ask the City of Asheville Sanitation Division. They deal with yours, your neighbor’s and …well, everyone’s leaves! With a staff of 11 on the brush and leaf collection team, they collected 6,204 tons of yard waste in 2016 alone. Yes: tons.

We asked them to lend their expertise, offering Asheville residents tips on how to better manage leaf collection.


Tips to make leaf collection work well for everyone


Tip #1: Compost them

Composting eliminates the chore of bagging leaves. It is easy to make your own compost unit from inexpensive materials such as wooden pallets, stakes and chicken wire.

Along with leaves you can compost much of your kitchen waste.

Compost improves your soil and helps retain water. Use it in flower and vegetable gardens, around trees and shrubs, and on houseplants and lawns.

Best of all, composting keeps the leaves out of the landfill or stump yard! This saves the City money as the City has to pay to dispose of leaves and brush it collects.

So feed the landscape, not the landfill.


Tip #2: Try paper bags

Brush crew member Bryant Williams prefers paper bags over plastic ones every time. “As long as it doesn’t rain, they’re more durable — they can be used over and over,” he said.

Paper bags for leaf collection are available at most home and hardware stores are pretty durable. They are an environmentally friendly choice.


Tip #3: Don’t mix sticks or vines with leaves

Please don’t contaminate the leaf stream! Sanitation crews will collect sticks and vines placed on the curb along with leaf collection but mixing the two together is both time consuming (because they then have to be separated) and potentially hazardous to the brush collector.

Please put leaves only in bags. Place brush, sticks and vines on the curb.

“Anything you could use a pitchfork on, do not put it in a bag, just set it out,” advises City brush crew member Keith Wells.


Tip #4: Things you didn’t know about plastic bags

Certainly plastic yard waste bags can be used for leaves as well. Please don’t tie them up however! This forces collection crews to rip the bags open, rendering them useless for future collection. And please do not use bags with a cinch. “They are harder to empty,” explains Robert Heinis, brush collection supervisor.

In optimal situations, Asheville brush crew members will empty bags filled with leaves and then place them back on the curb for future use.


Tip# 5: Know when your collection is

The City of Asheville collects tree limbs, bagged leaves and shrub trimmings separately from other garbage and bulky items. Brush should be placed at the curb by 7 a.m. on Monday of your pickup week.

For more information, visit the City of Asheville Brush and Leaf Collection webpage.


Tip #6: Working with a contractor

Finally, what if you are unable to collect and bag your leaves yourself? Maybe you don’t have the time. Many local contractors will do this job for a fee. Please note that by City Ordinance, the City does not remove leaves removed from yards by a private contractor.