(BLOOMINGTON) The City of Bloomington’s annual leaf collection program launches next week with several updates designed to make it more useful and in closer alignment with the City’s goals for environmental and economic sustainability, as captured in Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative.
Curbside vacuum pickup begins Monday, November 9 and continues through Thursday, December 24, during which time each residence will receive one pickup. Residents may enter their address into an updated interactive map for information about when to expect their neighborhood’s pickup. Postcards with this information were mailed to City residents last week.
Additionally, signs will be placed in each neighborhood a week ahead of its scheduled leaf pickup. In anticipation of this date, residents may rake leaves to the curb at the edge of their property while avoiding placing leaves in the roadway, sidewalk, around fire hydrants, or blocking drains. Residents willing to keep storm drains free of leaves and debris may apply to become an Adopt-a-Drain volunteer at the City of Bloomington Utilities website.
The City encourages residents to explore options in addition to vacuuming for their leaf management, including mulching or composting leaves. Recycling leaves through these methods creates useful fertilizer for the yard and conserves resources. The City has created a brochure and a video to share information about mulching and composting leaves. Additionally, residents may opt to place leaves in biodegradable paper sacks or City-approved yard waste bins for curbside collection at no charge from November 9 through December 24.
Updates to the City’s leaf collection program were initiated through the City’s Office of Innovation in late 2019 and developed over a year-long process of evaluation and public engagement by a team of employees from across City departments. Working with residents, the team has sought creative, sustainable solutions to the resource-intensive vacuuming service. This year’s reduction in revenues from the State of Indiana Motor Vehicle Highway Account that has historically supported the service created additional urgency for the development of cost-saving measures. As a result, the 2020 leaf collection program includes the following updates:
- Improved notification system (neighborhood signs, updated interactive map) increases awareness of curbside vacuuming service schedule, making service more useful.
- Better timing (delaying the start of the vacuuming service better to coincide with trees’ annual shedding cycle, limiting service to a single pass per neighborhood) reduces costs of fuel, equipment, and labor.
- Limiting leaf removal from public tree plots improves soil health, reduces labor costs.
As part of the Innovation project, 21 City households have agreed to pilot the use of alternatives to curbside vacuuming–such as composting and mulching–as a way to manage their leaves. The pilot participants are encouraged to use the leaves on their own property as much as possible and offer the excess for donation to neighbors or garden clubs, or for collection by the City’s yard waste service. Signs posted at each of the participating households create awareness of the pilot project and alert crews to avoid vacuuming leaves from these locations. Together with input collected in a community survey and public meetings conducted over the summer, the pilot households’ experiences will inform recommendations for the 2021 leaf management program. You may follow the pilot project at https://bloomington.in.gov/innovate/2020-leaves.