Volunteers of all ages can help keep storm drains clear of leaves, debris and trash through the Adopt-a-Drain program this leaf collection season. Courtesy photo

Editor’s note: The following is a press release from the City of Bloomington with minor edits for style and clarity.

The City of Bloomington’s annual leaf collection program will launch on November 9 with several updates designed to make it more useful and in closer alignment with the City’s goals for environmental and economic sustainability outlined in Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative. 

The Leaf Collection Program encourages residents to dispose of fallen leaves on their property in an environmentally responsible manner. Potential disposal methods include the City’s curbside vacuum pickup (November 9–December 24, limit one pickup per residence) and mulching or composing leaves.

Signs will be placed in each neighborhood a week ahead of its scheduled leaf pickup.  In anticipation of this date, residents may rake leaves to the curb at the edge of their property while avoiding placing leaves in the roadway, sidewalk, around fire hydrants, or blocking drains.  Residents willing to keep storm drains free of leaves and debris may apply to become an Adopt-a-Drain volunteer at the City of Bloomington Utilities website

Those who don’t wish to leave loose leaves on their property may opt to place leaves in biodegradable paper sacks or City-approved yard waste pins for curbside collection at no charge.

Residents who choose to mulch or compost leaves will find that these methods create useful fertilizer for the yard and conserve resources.  The City has created a brochure and a video to share information about mulching and composting leaves. 

Updates to the City’s leaf collection program were initiated through the City’s Office of Innovation in late 2019 and developed over a year-long process of evaluation and public engagement by a team of employees from across City departments. Working with residents, the team has sought creative, sustainable solutions to the resource-intensive vacuuming service. This year’s reduction in revenues from the State of Indiana Motor Vehicle Highway Account that has historically supported the service has created additional urgency for the development of cost-saving measures. As a result, the 2020 leaf collection program includes the following updates:

  • Improved notification system (neighborhood signs, updated interactive map) increases awareness of curbside vacuuming service schedule, making service more useful. 
  • Better timing (delaying the start of the vacuuming service to better coincide with trees’ annual shedding cycle, limiting service to a single pass per neighborhood) reduces costs of fuel, equipment, and labor.
  • Limiting leaf removal from public tree plots improves soil health, reduces labor costs.  

As part of the Innovation project, 21 City households have agreed to pilot the use of alternatives to curbside vacuuming, such as composting and mulching, as a way to manage their leaves. The pilot participants are encouraged to use the leaves on their own property as much as possible and offer the excess for donation to neighbors or garden clubs, or for collection by the City’s yard waste service.  Signs posted at each of the participating households create awareness of the pilot project and alert crews to avoid vacuuming leaves from these locations. Together with input collected in a community survey and public meetings conducted over the summer, the pilot households’ experiences will inform recommendations for the 2021 leaf management program.  You may follow the pilot project at https://bloomington.in.gov/innovate/2020-leaves.