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Earth Sense: Keep grass clippings out of the street properly
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Some love to do it, some despise it: Mowing the lawn — or “cutting the grass,” as we like to call it around here.

Right now, the grass is growing at a steady rate. Push-mowers and lawn tractors discharge clippings to the right. Therefore, many operators like to mow on the edge of the road by riding against traffic. The clippings are blown onto the roadway and in time will dry up and get dispersed by rain or wind.

I’ve even observed neighbors intentionally dumping clippings from a collection bag onto the street, using an odd version of “out of sight, out of mind.” But there are many reasons not to do this.

For starters, it’s an ordinance violation in many municipalities. The clippings tend to end up in storm drains and can clog them. Fines for creating a drainage hazard can be substantial, depending on the town. Corpus Christi, Texas, quotes up to $2,000 per day for violations. The Georgia Stormwater Management Manual states, “Never blow or dump grass clippings, leaves and other waste into the street, stormwater drain, drainage ditch or surface water. When possible, recycle grass clippings and leaves by using a mulching mower.”

Another aspect that can subject a homeowner to serious litigation is the traffic hazard resulting from grass clippings blown onto a roadway. Freshly cut grass is slippery and can cause a motorcyclist or bicyclist to lose traction and crash. In such a spill, damage to one of the popular Harley-Davidson motorcycles instantly reaches four figures, not to mention an injury lawsuit by the rider.

Many are the times I came around a turn on a dry road, to be suddenly confronted with slick ridges of grass clippings. People on lawn mowers giving me a happy wave have convinced me that they are unaware of the dangers they are creating.

The best way to dispose of the clippings is to use mulching blades on the mower. They have a special shape which shreds the grass after cutting and deposits it on the lawn. Not only does this eliminate the discharge blowing out on the side, it also adds valuable nutrients back to the soil. If used regularly, before the grass gets too high, there are no clumps or ridges.

Savings in fertilizer, possible city fines and elimination of a hazard to fellow citizens make mulching blades a great investment.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University.

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