Falling leaves belong in compost, not burn barrel
It’s the time of the year when leaves turn shades of bright orange and red, then fall to the ground, covering your lawn. Instead of burning yard waste though, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) encourages you to mulch or compost them for use as fertilizer on your lawn or garden.
Why does the state restrict what can be burned by residents? Because smoke from the open burning of trash or yard waste contains harmful pollutants, some of which are highly toxic, and can harm your family’s health. Because this pollution doesn’t stay on your property, it can also harm your neighbors’ health—especially those with asthma, allergies or emphysema. This pollution can also be bad for the environment because it contributes to ground level ozone and fine particle pollution.
Composting is also a safer alternative to starting a brush fire on your property. Another option is to use a wood chipper for fallen leaves and branches.
“Many local communities have yard waste collection,” said IDEM commissioner Carol Comer. “This allows homeowners to have their leaves and brush composted or mulched at a central location. That mulch or compost is often made available to residents for free or at a discounted price.”
However, if no alternatives exist, and you decide to burn your yard waste, there are limitations on how that can be done. IDEM has produced a video detailing the residential open burning laws of Indiana, which can be found at http://youtu.be/VO_fBGxX9cU.
Some cities, towns or counties may have local ordinances that are stricter than the state rules, and some communities may ban burning altogether. If so, residents must comply with those ordinances even if the fire is allowed under state law. You should check with your local fire department, health department, city, or county government officials to see if local bans or restrictions are in place.
To learn more about open burning, contact IDEM’s Office of Air Quality at (800) 451-6027 or visit www.idem.IN.gov/airquality/2411.htm.
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