By Lauren Casey
INDIANAPOLIS – As gardens go brown and leaves
fall to the ground, Hoosiers are headed out to clean up their mounting yard
is urging residents not to burn their piles – even if it's allowed
locally – and to find healthier alternatives when disposing of their yard
"There are so many good, environmentally-friendly alternatives
to burning," said IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly. "It just makes sense for
Hoosiers to put away their matches."
State law bans burning trash in all areas of Indiana.
And burning of any kind is banned in Lake, Porter, Clark and Floyd counties.
But state law allows the open burning of leaves,
branches, twigs, and other yard debris in most parts of the state. In some
areas – particularly in larger cities – local ordinances prohibit
Jennifer Simmons, spokeswoman for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
Association of Cities and Towns, said the group does not track how many
communities have burn bans. But she said they are usually linked to more
Those local ordinances sometimes ban the fires
completely. Or, they specify the conditions needed for a proper burn, such as
using clean wood products in an elevated, well-ventilated container with a mesh
cover. A fire extinguisher should be nearby in case the fire gets out of hand,
Still, state and environmental officials caution
against it. And IDEM's public information officer, Robert Elstro, said the
department receives about 206 open burning complaints on average each year.
Smoke from open burning is harmful to not only the
environment, but also the people living nearby, IDEM officials said. The smoke
includes carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, fine particles, and ozone-forming
Wet leaves or branches can cause the amount of these
chemicals in a fire to multiply.
Roger Johnson, president of the Indiana Firefighter's
Association said that open burning also causes problems for firefighters.
"On a day with a lot of wind the fire can get away
from them so fast," said Johnson. "They can't control it because it can get
very big very fast."
Yard waste fires are more likely to get out of control
in the spring because there are more dead plants and ground foliage left from
winter months, Johnson said.
But he said that although these types of land fires
can get dangerous quickly, "most people have pretty good judgment" when it
comes to open burning.
There are alternatives. Many communities have leaf
Mulching leaves and twigs with a lawnmower can help
return nutrients to the grass. Composting the debris in a container or on the
ground can great nutrient rich soil. And large branches and small trees chipped
into smaller pieces can be used in flowerbeds to control weeds.
"Alternative debris disposal creates mulch and wood
chips that can be used on your lawn and in your garden," Easterly said.
Alternatives to burning yard waste
Mulching: Mulch leaves and twigs by chopping them up
with a lawnmower. This returns nutrients to the grass.
Composting: Pile grass clippings, leaves, branches and
weeds in a container or on the ground. They will break down naturally into a
nutrient-rich soil amendment. Cities, townships and counties have leaf
collection programs if you don't have the space.
Chipping: Borrow or rent a chipper to chip up large
branches and small trees. The wood chips can be spread around trees and flower
beds to retain soil moisture and control weeds.
— Source: Indiana Department of Environmental
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports
from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School