Yard waste

The Trash Series: Where Does Yard Waste Go?

Yard waste

Cary, NC — Did you know that, in Cary, yard waste like leaves, grass clippings and branches can be put out at the curb to be picked up with your regular trash?

A New Series…About Trash

This article is the first in a series of articles about trash. Yes, trash.

In Cary, we’re lucky to have resources like curbside trash pick-up, co-mingled recycling and yard waste collection. But, after our cans, bottles, trash bags and yard waste are picked up, where do they go? To answer this question and more, I’ve teamed up with Bob Holden, Town of Cary’s Solid Waste Division Manager, to learn more about our trash.

This week, he told me about yard waste collection–one of Cary’s many great services.

What’s Yard Waste?

The Town of Cary defines residential yard waste as “vegetative matter collected as a result of landscaping such as grass clippings, brush, leaves and limbs.”

Since North Carolina banned yard waste from landfills in the early 1990’s, the waste can be collected each week at the curb on your regular garbage collection day in separate bins.

Recycle Your Yard Waste

Follow these guidelines from the Town of Cary to properly dispose of yard waste.

  • Place yard waste at the curb by 7 am on your regular collection day.
  • Place yard waste in reusable containers with handles (maximum 32 gallon container, 25 pounds each), paper bags, or tied bundles small enough for one person to handle.
  • Limbs must be less than 4 feet in length and less than 4 inches in diameter.
  • The maximum volume of curbside yard waste for regular collection at each home on one day cannot exceed 240 cubic feet (8 feet long by 5 feet wide by 6 feet tall) of tied bundles.

Where Does It Go?

This yard waste isn’t “wasted.” Instead, after it’s picked up, it’s reused, turned into compost and brought back to the Cary community to help residents plant and garden.

Bob told me that, once a week, the Town collects prepared yard waste and hauls it to McGill, an indoor commercial composting operation located in Merry Oaks, NC. Once there, the yard waste is ground and added to McGill’s composting recipe.

The Town also collects loose leaves November-March in vacuum trucks. The leaves are hauled to an outdoor commercial composting operation in Goldston, NC. “Both companies use the Town’s yard waste in their production of compost,” Bob said.

Get Free Compost

The Town offers composting workshops in the each spring and fall (the next one will be on November 6-7, 2015). As part of the workshop, participants receive up to three bags or approximately three yards of compost donated by McGill. You can also purchase compost at most lawn/garden centers or make your own throughout the year.

The Town has been giving away free compost since 2009.

Why Collect Yard Waste?

Yard waste collection is helpful to residents and good for the environment. Bob explains that:

By participating in our curbside yard waste collection program, or by making your own compost at home, you are helping to contribute to a sustainable future. Waste diversion through composting reduces landfill space. Using compost as a soil amendment on your lawn or garden improves soil quality which can lead to water conservation and can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.


Story and photo by Jessica Patrick. This article was made possible with the help of Bob Holden, Solid Waste Division Manager for the Town of Cary.

4 replies
  1. Gary
    Gary says:


    New video shows what plastics Cary does not want in the BROWN container!
    watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvNUHUDwQgE

    For month of July, they’ll be doing curbside sorting and leaving residents notices.

    Not accepted: unnumbered
    plastics, frozen entrée trays or
    clamshell/hinged containers,
    plastic bags, toys, coat hangers
    and polystyrene

    More help:

  2. Len Nieman
    Len Nieman says:

    Prevent a back injury.

    If you use the type of containers in the picture for yard waste, drill 4 to 6 half inch holes in the bottom. This will allow water to drain out if it rains, instead of filling the container.

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