How to Reuse or Recycle Your Landscape Refuse

How to Reuse or Recycle Your Landscape Refuse

Maintaining a landscape or garden can create a lot of waste, from grass clippings and fallen leaves to pulled weeds and felled trees. In Illinois, homeowners, property managers and business owners can no longer take the vast majority of this waste to the landfill.

Why? While landscape refuse is certainly biodegradable, it can take up scarce space in public landfills. This organic waste may displace trash that takes longer to decompose and causes a lot more harm when disposed of incorrectly.

Additionally, many of the containers and bags commonly used to transport landscape refuse decompose slowly. Sending a garbage bag full of leaves to the dump has the same impact as sending a plastic bag to the dump, which takes years to fully decompose, sitting in the landfill full of degraded material.

So what can you do to get rid of your landscape refuse in compliance with the law?


In this blog post, we discuss types of landscape refuse, their disposal restrictions and their approved disposal methods. We’ll also discuss alternative methods for disposing of plant waste.

Types of Landscape Refuse

Your property contains varied plants that can produce several types of waste. Common types of landscape refuse include the following:

  • Brush: You may need to bundle brush pieces together for transport. Most cities require brush bundles be no heavier than 70 pounds and no longer than 4 feet.
  • Flowering and vegetative plants: This can include flowers, flowering plants, vegetable waste, garden plants, weeds and climbing vines.
  • Grass clippings: Grass clippings and hedge trimmings make up the bulk of landscape refuse.
  • Tree waste: Leaves, bark and branches are all acceptable forms of landscape refuse. However, you cannot dispose of large trees or tree branches without first breaking them down. Usually, disposal companies will not accept limbs larger than 12 inches in diameter or bundles heavier than 25 pounds and/or longer than 5 feet.

You may feel tempted to include other forms of organic waste with your landscape refuse. However, most disposal companies do not accept bouquets, dirt or sod, indoor plants, pinecones or stones of any kind.

Some individual Illinois cities have specific regulations that may differ from those listed here. If you would like a guide on what else is considered organic material, please download LRS’ flyer for more information.

Yard Waste Recycling Options

Typically, you have two official recycling options for this waste. Your disposal company may provide a specific cart for your property. For LRS customers, our containers are a deep shade of blue and clearly marked with an “organic” sticker. These carts usually hold a high capacity and are ideal for properties with a large volume of refuse.

Alternately, some disposal companies offer a subscription program. In these programs, you bag up your landscape refuse in biodegradable trash bags and identify them with a sticker provided. These bags go on the curb with your other waste.

Landscape Refuse Reuse Options

You can also use some forms of landscape refuse on your property. Here are some examples:

  • Brush: Create brush piles away from your building as habitats for beneficial insects.
  • Flowering and vegetative plants: Add plant waste to your compost pile.
  • Grass clippings: Leave grass clippings on your lawn as natural mulch.
  • Tree waste: Turn tree waste into mulch, firewood or kindling.

Check with your homeowner’s association for any restrictions on mulching or composting in your area.

Not sure which regulations you must adhere to? Need to know more about disposal options in your area? Reach out to Lakeshore Recycling Systems to learn more.

We help homeowners and business owners choose eco-friendly and simple recycling solutions that suit their needs.

As you mow your lawn, trim your trees and weed your garden, remember these guidelines to ensure you dispose of your landscape refuse in an approved, sustainable way.

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