ASK ELi: Yard Waste

You are on, ELi's old domain, which is now an archive of news (as of early April, 2020). If you are looking for the latest news, go to and update your bookmarks accordingly!


Friday, April 3, 2015, 12:01 am
Alice Dreger

Yard waste collection will begin on Monday, April 6, so this week we bring you answers to common and environmentally-oriented questions about yard waste.

What counts as yard waste? According to the City, “Yard waste includes leaves, plant materials, grass clippings and brush/limbs.”

How does it have to be packaged for pick-up? There are three ways to package your yard-waste for pick-up:

  1. Put it in a City of East Lansing paper yard waste bag. You can buy these special waste bags at the Hannah Community Center, at the Department of Public Works (1800 E. State Road), and at City Hall. If you need to buy them on the weekend, try the front desk at Hannah.
  2. Put the materials in a rigid plastic container, no bigger than 32 gallons, or in a paper yard waste bag that you get at a hardware store or the grocery store, and stick a City of East Lansing yard waste sticker on that. (You’re not allowed to use your Easy Cart for this.) You can buy the stickers at all the same places: Hannah Community Center, Department of Public Works, and City Hall.
  3. Bundle up sticks, using string or twine, and attach a City yard waste sticker. The City says, “Bundles may not be more than four feet long and one foot in diameter and must weigh no more than 40 pounds. Individual limbs must be four inches in diameter or less.”


When is yard waste picked up? Mondays (except holidays) starting on April 6 and going through November, but you have to remember to request pick-up when you want it! (It’s not like trash pick-up where they come to every street every week.) Go to the City’s special webpage to request pick-up by 7:30 am the Monday morning of pick-up. You can also call in your request to (517) 337-9459, but you have to do that by 5 pm on the Friday before the Monday pick-up. (The website is simpler.)

When will the no-fee Spring collection days be? On May 4 and May 18, you can put out yard waste without stickers and the City will pick it up for free. You do not have to make a pick-up request on these special free pick-up days. (You still have to package them as noted above except that you don’t need special City bags or stickers.)

What does the City do with the yard waste it collects? I asked Cathy DeShambo, Environmental Services Administrator for the City of East Lansing, this question. DeShambo says, “We take our yard waste to Granger Compost Center, currently.”

Why is it important for residents not to just toss yard waste in with trash? DeShambo explains, “Yard waste is actually prohibited from landfills and incinerators by Michigan law. There are some exceptions to this ban: diseased or infected plant material, potted plants, holiday type decor such as wreaths, or very small amounts of plant matter are allowed to go in the trash to be landfilled.”

Is the City concerned about toxic plants (like poison ivy) or invasive non-native plants ending up with the yard waste, or does the City take steps to reduce risk to City workers and the City environment? DeShambo tells me that “Our strict yard waste guidelines (material must be bagged or contained properly and cannot exceed weight and size limits) exist to protect our staff. They wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves, and eye protection to ensure further ensure their safety. Truly an overweight bag or bundle poses more risk to our staff's health and safety.”

She adds, “If a resident is ever concerned about a potentially dangerous plant, they can always contact us or MSU extension for guidance.” Further, “As far as invasive species, the small amounts that are included from a resident's yard waste are not generally an issue in composting. Invasive materials collected through an approved eradication program or control program can be disposed of in a landfill. For example, the City's Environmental Stewardship program has done some great work properly removing garlic mustard from White Park. We collect those bagged materials and are allowed to landfill them.”

Anything else? Says DeShambo, “We also encourage residents to maintain a healthy, ‘green’ yard by following tips on our Healthy landscape page on the city's web site.”

 Photo courtesy City of East Lansing © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info