Loose leaf collection - should this program continue?

In addition to the Region of Waterloo's yard waste collection service (where bagged leaves, grass clippings, etc., are collected from March to November), the city collects loose leaves that have fallen from boulevard trees or have been raked onto streets. Historically, the intention of this service is to remove leaves from roadways so they don't create blockages in and around storm drains. It's been the city's practice to extend this service to include leaves from residential properties that are raked to the roadside.

The challenge

Timing: In recent years, the timing of the leaf collection service has not matched the times leaves have actually fallen. Tree species drop their leaves at different times and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions can alter this timing or slow the collection process if leaves become wet or frozen. Leaves left on the road for a longer period can create flooding issues and hazards for cyclists using the roadway.

Resources: The same staff and fleet resources used for leaf collection are also used for winter control (e.g., road plowing and salting), as well as winter-readiness activities such as asphalt and sidewalk repair. Shifting this team to leaf collection each fall takes time away from preparing transportation routes for winter. Erratic weather, such as early snowfalls, require the fleet to be modified from leaf collection to snow removal in the midst of leaf collection service. Leaves covered in snow or frozen to the ground take longer to remove, while snow plowing is also less effective when leaves are present on the roadside (e.g., it's more difficult to plow roads to the curb edge as it may be obstructed with leaves).

Budget: In light of these challenges, the leaf collection program has been over budget and additional funding was requested through the 2019 budget process. While additional funds could alleviate some of the pressures, depending on the weather, it will not necessarily remove the conflict between winter operations and loose leaf collection.

Environment: Leaving leaves on the ground can support backyard biodiversity by providing important habitat for animals such as toads, frogs and pollinators. In addition, mulching leaves serves as an excellent source of fertilization that results in a healthy green lawn. To mulch leaves, remove the grass catcher unit from the mower and mow over the leaves to create a fine mulch. Mow fallen leaves about once a week until they finish falling. When spring arrives, the mulched leaves will have disappeared. Whole leaves can also be raked onto garden beds for fertilization and to provide a habitat for toads, frogs and pollinators.

Tell us what you think!

Waterloo's city council has requested a review of the leaf collection program. Your input will assist our council in making a more informed decision. In June, 2019, city council will decide on one of the following three options:

  1. Continue to visit each of the 19 leaf collection zones at least once, dependent on weather. Service would continue as usual with no change to the existing program. Council has approved a $25,000 funding increase for 2019 to cover added costs associated with the program and funding requests would continue to be made through the budget process to address rising program costs.
  2. Provide leaf collection in matured treed areas only. Loose leaf collection would continue only in the areas with a mature tree classification (see grey area indicated on map). Area classifications and boundaries would change over time as trees mature and staff would review the collection areas every four years in alignment with our budgeting process. This option allows staff to localize efforts, resulting in operational efficiencies. Initially, no additional budget would be required.
  3. Discontinue the loose leaf collection program. Residents would be required to collect, dispose and/or compost leaves from their property and the boulevard and would no longer be permitted to rake leaves from boulevard trees to the curbside. Some of the current leaf collection budget would still be required to complete catch basin clearing in problem (heavily treed) areas.

Please take our short survey below and/or share your comments and tell us what you believe is the best option.

In addition to the Region of Waterloo's yard waste collection service (where bagged leaves, grass clippings, etc., are collected from March to November), the city collects loose leaves that have fallen from boulevard trees or have been raked onto streets. Historically, the intention of this service is to remove leaves from roadways so they don't create blockages in and around storm drains. It's been the city's practice to extend this service to include leaves from residential properties that are raked to the roadside.

The challenge

Timing: In recent years, the timing of the leaf collection service has not matched the times leaves have actually fallen. Tree species drop their leaves at different times and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions can alter this timing or slow the collection process if leaves become wet or frozen. Leaves left on the road for a longer period can create flooding issues and hazards for cyclists using the roadway.

Resources: The same staff and fleet resources used for leaf collection are also used for winter control (e.g., road plowing and salting), as well as winter-readiness activities such as asphalt and sidewalk repair. Shifting this team to leaf collection each fall takes time away from preparing transportation routes for winter. Erratic weather, such as early snowfalls, require the fleet to be modified from leaf collection to snow removal in the midst of leaf collection service. Leaves covered in snow or frozen to the ground take longer to remove, while snow plowing is also less effective when leaves are present on the roadside (e.g., it's more difficult to plow roads to the curb edge as it may be obstructed with leaves).

Budget: In light of these challenges, the leaf collection program has been over budget and additional funding was requested through the 2019 budget process. While additional funds could alleviate some of the pressures, depending on the weather, it will not necessarily remove the conflict between winter operations and loose leaf collection.

Environment: Leaving leaves on the ground can support backyard biodiversity by providing important habitat for animals such as toads, frogs and pollinators. In addition, mulching leaves serves as an excellent source of fertilization that results in a healthy green lawn. To mulch leaves, remove the grass catcher unit from the mower and mow over the leaves to create a fine mulch. Mow fallen leaves about once a week until they finish falling. When spring arrives, the mulched leaves will have disappeared. Whole leaves can also be raked onto garden beds for fertilization and to provide a habitat for toads, frogs and pollinators.

Tell us what you think!

Waterloo's city council has requested a review of the leaf collection program. Your input will assist our council in making a more informed decision. In June, 2019, city council will decide on one of the following three options:

  1. Continue to visit each of the 19 leaf collection zones at least once, dependent on weather. Service would continue as usual with no change to the existing program. Council has approved a $25,000 funding increase for 2019 to cover added costs associated with the program and funding requests would continue to be made through the budget process to address rising program costs.
  2. Provide leaf collection in matured treed areas only. Loose leaf collection would continue only in the areas with a mature tree classification (see grey area indicated on map). Area classifications and boundaries would change over time as trees mature and staff would review the collection areas every four years in alignment with our budgeting process. This option allows staff to localize efforts, resulting in operational efficiencies. Initially, no additional budget would be required.
  3. Discontinue the loose leaf collection program. Residents would be required to collect, dispose and/or compost leaves from their property and the boulevard and would no longer be permitted to rake leaves from boulevard trees to the curbside. Some of the current leaf collection budget would still be required to complete catch basin clearing in problem (heavily treed) areas.

Please take our short survey below and/or share your comments and tell us what you believe is the best option.

  • What option do you think is best for our community?

    In June, 2019, City of Waterloo council will decide on one of the following three options for leaf collection indicated in this survey. Your input will assist council in making a decision that is right for the community.  

    1. Continue to visit each of the 19 leaf collection zones at least once, dependent on weather. Service would continue as usual with no change to the existing program. Council has approved a $25,000 funding increase for 2019 to cover added costs associated with the program and funding requests would continue to be made through the budget process to address rising program costs.

    In June, 2019, City of Waterloo council will decide on one of the following three options for leaf collection indicated in this survey. Your input will assist council in making a decision that is right for the community.  

    1. Continue to visit each of the 19 leaf collection zones at least once, dependent on weather. Service would continue as usual with no change to the existing program. Council has approved a $25,000 funding increase for 2019 to cover added costs associated with the program and funding requests would continue to be made through the budget process to address rising program costs.
    2. Provide leaf collection in matured treed areas only. Loose leaf collection would continue only in the areas with a mature tree classification (see grey area indicated on map). Area classifications and boundaries would change over time as trees mature and staff would review the collection areas every four years in alignment with our budgeting process. This option allows staff to localize efforts, resulting in operational efficiencies. Initially, no additional budget would be required.
    3. Discontinue the loose leaf collection program. Residents would be required to collect, dispose and/or compost leaves from their property and the boulevard and would no longer be permitted to rake leaves from boulevard trees to the curbside. Some of the current leaf collection budget would still be required to complete catch basin clearing in problem (heavily treed) areas.

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