For the past five years or so, the Scarsdale Village, prodded by the Scarsdale Forum’s Sustainability Committee and the Friends of Scarsdale Parks, among others, has been discussing the possibility of ending the Village’s long-time practice of vacuuming and removing residents’ leaves left unbagged at curbside. In 2011, the Village Board passed a resolution encouraging leaf mulching. After a couple of years more of debating the issue, the Village Board in 2014 considered a resolution that would eliminate the Village’s autumn curbside leaf vacuuming program, and instead, require that residents either mulch their leaves onsite, bag them in biodegradable bags for once per week pick up by the Sanitation Department, or take their leaves to the Village’s leaf transfer station (either by themselves (no charge) or by their landscapers (tipping fee)). Although the Village said that the cost of its Fall Leaf program was around $800,000, the Village claimed that the savings from eliminating the vacuuming program would be only about $150,000 per year. That’s because even without the curbside leaf vacuuming program, the Village would still have to rid Village streets of fallen leaves not placed by residents. The Village would still have to pick up bagged leaves. The Village would still have to operate its leaf transfer station and have deposited leaves carted out of town.
Onsite leaf mulching is a fantastic idea. Leaf mulching enriches the soil, providing residents with a healthier lawn. Leaf mulching reduces nitrogen infiltration into the storm sewers (and thereby lowers nitrogen discharges into Long Island Sound). Leaf mulching saves the Village some money and reduces carbon emissions from sanitation department trucks carrying the leaves across town. So the Village should do everything in its power to encourage residents to mulch their leaves on site. However, the Village should not MANDATE that residents do so.
Many residents were up in arms about the Village’s proposed elimination of leaf vacuuming. Particularly upset were seniors who don’t have professional gardeners and who maintain their properties themselves or whose gardeners said they would charge them more if leaf vacuuming ceased. Many residents explained that the properties were not conducive to leaf mulching on site. Residents were upset that this prized service might be eliminated and they would pay more. After this strong community backlash, the Village Board wisely decided to table the resolution. My view is that while we should encourage residents to mulch on site, we should maintain our current leaf vacuuming program. Over time, more and more residents will mulch, and the costs to the Village will be reduced.