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Unveiling the Truth about Yard Waste: A Crucial Step in Recycling

In our recent audit of the City of Detroit's recycling efforts, Green Living Science conducted a comprehensive assessment of the recycling process. Through hands-on work involving sample collection and meticulous sorting, we determined the recyclability of materials, identified contaminants destined for landfills, and discovered areas where diversion from landfills fell short. One of the key findings from this audit sheds light on the challenges associated with yard waste in the recycling.

Yard waste poses a considerable risk of contaminating a significant portion of recyclable materials once included in our recycling program. The sorting process becomes exceedingly challenging as clean materials become entangled with yard waste, dirt, and other organic substances, making it impossible to discern and isolate uncontaminated recyclables.

Understanding Yard Waste:

Yard waste encompasses various organic materials generated from routine landscaping and gardening activities. Detroit residents can dispose of the following items as yard waste:

  • Grass clippings, leaves, and small twigs (up to two inches in diameter) should be placed in biodegradable paper bags on the scheduled bi-weekly bulk collection day.

  • Branches and twigs measuring up to four feet in length and no more than four inches in diameter must be bundled securely and placed at the curb.

Items That Should Not Be Considered Yard Waste:

To ensure the efficient recycling and disposal of waste, it is important to differentiate between true yard waste and materials that do not fall under this category. The following items should not be considered as yard waste:

  • Pet droppings: During our audit, we identified a significant issue with pet droppings contaminating the recycling stream. To preserve the recyclability of items, pet droppings should never be included with yard waste or any other recyclables.

  • Large branches: Branches exceeding four inches in diameter or four feet in length should not be included in yard waste. These larger branches require separate disposal methods, such as yard waste pickup services.

  • Food waste: While food waste can be picked up through community composting services, it should not be included in yard waste. Proper separation and disposal of food waste are essential for maximizing its potential as compost.

Alternatives When Out of Yard Waste Bags:

In the event that residents run out of the designated brown bags for yard waste, it is important to refrain from using plastic bags or recycling carts. Instead utilize a trash container (purchased from a local hardware store) and clearly label it "yard waste" on two sides. This will ensure that waste collectors recognize its contents appropriately.


Effective management of yard waste is crucial for enhancing recycling efforts in Detroit. By adhering to the correct guidelines, residents can make a significant impact on reducing contamination and diverting waste from landfills.

Green Living Science encourages all residents to stay informed and play an active role in sustainable waste management practices, ultimately fostering a greener and cleaner environment for our community.

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