Reducing Waste from Landscaping Activities: A Guide for Landscape Contractors, Site Managers, and Homeowners

Landscaping activities can generate a lot of waste, but there are ways to reduce it. Recycling materials from construction, installation, or maintenance of landscape sites is a great way to reduce waste. Wood waste can be converted into mulch and plastic pots can be recycled into products for landscape use. Buying garden products with recycled content, such as plastic or wood borders, conserves natural resources and strengthens markets for these recyclable materials.

Composting clippings and organic materials on site when available is also recommended. If materials must be removed, they must be transported to local composting facilities for processing. Did you know that up to 25% of the items in your trash could be removed from the waste stream and converted to compost in your backyard? Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and leaves can all be composted. Composting requires more effort than other lifestyle changes, but it will provide you with a cost-effective return on your investment of time and effort.

Depending on the conditions, you can have compost in 3 to 12 months for use in your garden. You'll save on fertilizer, and if you grow your own vegetables, you're likely to get better yields. The organic matter will also act like a sponge to absorb more water, meaning that you may not need to water your plants as much, saving you money and time. For more information on applying compost to a landscape garden or lawn, check out the fact sheets available online.

For many of these sites, establishing and maintaining acres of aesthetically pleasing landscapes and well-maintained lawns are daily business activities. A new division can be created within the existing maintenance department or a new department as a whole by implementing a waste management plan. The EPA program encourages holistic gardening decisions, emphasizing reuse for economic and environmentally friendly solutions. Waste management is a practice that many commercial companies are adopting to initiate sustainable policies.

When planning a new landscape design or updating a current one, avoid gardening products that require frequent replacement or maintenance. With foresight and planning, they can design self-sufficient landscapes that are beautiful and environmentally friendly. The GreenScapes Alliance is a very broad group of major national and state organizations to small dedicated companies that promote practices and products that meet the needs of users in terms of gardening but are more environmentally friendly.

Now consider the millions of tons of waste materials (grass, trees, scrubland, wood, asphalt and concrete) that are dragged, buried, or burned every day as a result of these gardening and land maintenance operations.

Landscape contractors, site managers, and homeowners can play an active role in efficient resource management, waste reduction, and pollution prevention.

Creating a climate-appropriate landscape can be done at many scales through careful planning. Change is a gradual process but even small improvements can create a giant domino effect which will extend from one site to the entire landscaping industry. Many grocery stores offer a refund of 5 cents per bag so you'll save a few cents and reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. Recycling organic materials is considered recycling too.

Potential participants include landscape contractors; day care centers; golf courses; road construction and maintenance industry; parks and recreational operations; schools; hospitals; federal, state, municipal and local governments; industry associations; vendors and manufacturers.