In the past, most yard trimmings have either been land filled or burned. Because yard trimmings may constitute up to 15% of waste entering landfills, and the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Act sets a 25% disposal reduction goal, management of yard trimmings by means other than land filling is critical.
In O.C.G.A. 12-8-21.(g), the legislative intent for the handling of yard trimming is stated as follows: "It is further the intent of the General Assembly to provide a frame of reference for the state and all counties,municipal corporations, and solid waste management authorities in the state relating to the handling of yard trimmings. The productivity of the soils of Georgia requires that nature's way of recycling vegetative matter be respected and followed and that such essential building materials are no longer wasted by being buried in landfills but are returned to the soil. The General Assembly, therefore, adopts and recommends the following hierarchy for handling yard trimmings:
(1) Naturalized, low-maintenance landscaping requiring little or not cutting;
(2) Grass cycling by mowing it high and letting it lie;
(3) Stacking branches into brush piles for use as wildlife habitats and for gradual decomposition into the soil;
(4) Composting on the site where the material was grown, followed by incorporation of the finished compost into the soil at that site;
(5) Chipping woody material on the site where such material was generated;
(6) Collecting yard trimmings and transporting them to another site to be chipped or composted for later use; and
(7) Chipping woody material for later use as fiber fuel."
Yard Trimmings Definition
The Act defines yard trimmings as follows: O.C.G.A. 12-8-22.(42) - "yard trimmings means leaves, brush, grass clippings, shrub and tree prunings, discarded Christmas trees, nursery and greenhouse vegetative residuals, and vegetative matter resulting from landscaping development and maintenance other than mining, agricultural and silvacultural operations."
Although it is recommended that land-clearing debris (trees, stumps, limbs, etc.) be managed in the same manner as yard trimmings, it is important to note that these materials are not legally considered yard trimmings and are therefore, not banned from landfills.
Yard Trimmings Disposal Ban
In order to encourage the reuse of yard trimmings, and to conserve landfill capacity, the Act at O.C.G.A. 12-8-40.2 established disposal restrictions of such waste in certain landfills.
Effective September 1, 1996, each city, county, or solid waste management authority shall impose restrictions on handling for yard trimmings generated or disposed of in respective jurisdictions. These restrictions shall include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Yard trimmings must be separated from all municipal solid waste in order to facilitate collections and ultimate handling.
2. Disposal of yard trimmings is banned at certain types of landfills. These landfills include:
- all municipal solid waste landfills with liners/leachate collection systems.
- all municipal solid waste landfills which have received a vertical expansion under the Act (NOTE: this also includes all construction and demolition landfills which have received a vertical expansion under the Act, since they are considered a form of municipal solid waste landfill).
3. Disposal of yard trimmings are not banned at certain types of landfills. These landfills include:
- private industry landfills which take solid waste from their own industry only; and
- inert waste landfills which are considered permit-by-rule facilities.
4. Jurisdictions must require sorting and storage for collection in such a manner to facilitate collection, composting, or other handling. 5. Yard trimmings must be:
- sorted and stockpiled, or
- chipped, or
- composted, or
- used as a mulch, or
- otherwise beneficially reused or recycled to the extent feasible.
While the yard trimmings disposal restrictions must be in place for all jurisdictions not later than September 1, 1996, the Act encourages each city, county, or solid waste management authority to take the initiative to impose such restrictions prior to September 1, 1996.