Take it or Leaf It

Solutions for miles of piles.

The world has a way of reminding us of consequences. Sometimes artfully, sometimes brutally. A silent autumnal menace does a little of both in reminding us of the consequences of its improper disposal.

This season isn't called "fall" for nothing. Leaves that lend shade in summer may wreak havoc later. Take for example the local woman who lost not one but two automobiles in a six-month period in flooded streets in our city because gutters were clogged with leaves.

The local evening news captured her trials, and according to urban legend, the footage appeared on the Weather Channel as the quintessential "warning of proper preparation in the event of severe weather to avoid looking like this" image.

As is so often the case with tragedy, these episodes were easily preventable, saving our heroine's car, and taxpayer dollars to boot.

The City of Memphis Bureau of Solid Waste Management estimates that 30 percent of the 400,000 tons of waste it removes annually from the curb is organic yard waste (fun fact: city waste management workers call this "trash" and refer to household waste as "garbage").

During the fall, the city takes bagged leaves to the Earth Complex Compost Facility at 2389 Hennington Avenue for composting, while other "trash" is ground into mulch. Last year, Memphis Solid Waste collected 47,792 tons of bagged leaves for mulching. Both products are either sold to contractors or sprinkled throughout appropriate city properties. Projects like these and curbside recycling help to pay for themselves, and at least offset costs if they fail to generate revenue.

How you get those leaves bagged is up to you, though a few tips should be kept in mind.

Perhaps the cyclone isn't the most appealing character to those of us hoping to pre-empt nature's indirect disasters. Nonetheless, a $1,200 contraption known as the Cyclone Rake is winning hearts and minds as it quickly and powerfully removes any trace of leaves from acre upon acre of land. The Cyclone attaches to the back of your riding lawn mower or tractor and suctions up everything placed before it, reducing leaves and twigs to a fine mulch that is automatically deposited in a storage bag for reuse elsewhere in the yard.

Though some may question the practicality, even necessity, of the class of lawn-care products known as yard vacuums, those who fall into the powerful draw of the yard vac remain fiercely loyal. Some devotees swear they'll never walk again.

A few steps below the Cyclone Rake, several handheld blower/vacuum devices collect leaves, though fewer, more slowly, and at much less financial expense. Seventy dollars can get you one at your neighborhood hardware store.

Speaking again of consequences, though, gas leaf blower fuel emissions are said to exceed those of your car per hour of use, since leaf blowers aren't subject to emissions controls. Likewise, the average walk-behind lawnmower generates 11 times the fuel emissions that an average car expels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Finally, a tale of fallen leaves, solutions, and consequences could not be complete without one last prop. It is traditional and proven where the others are planned to become obsolete. It can clear a storm drain or yard of any amount of leaves at very little financial expense. Used properly, this humble device might have saved our heroine's chariots. It is, of course, a rake. No cyclone, just tines and a handle. Whether you use it or its pricey cousins, the decision to ignore that ever-growing pile of leaves outside could cost you. 

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