Waste Prevention and Reduction
Wasteshed programs for a two percent recovery rate credit
Oregon Administrative Rule 340-090-0045(3)(b)(A): a program to encourage leaving grass
clippings generated by lawn mowing on-site rather than bagging the
clippings for disposal or composting.
What is "grasscycling?"
Grasscycling is a simple and natural approach to lawn care.
Clippings are left on the lawn after mowing to decompose quickly,
releasing valuable nutrients back into the soil. Grasscycling has
many benefits: it saves time, money and the resources needed to pick
up and handle the clippings for composting or landfilling. When
practiced in conjunction with proper lawn management, grasscycling
can reduce water and fertilizer requirements, mowing time, and
Estimating generated volumes of grass clippings
- EPA/Tellus Institute estimates the combined source reduction
potential of grasscycling and composting of yard trimmings to be
18.3 million tons, or 8.8 percent of the total national solid waste stream.
- The California Integrated Waste Management Board uses a figure
of 704 pounds of grass clippings generated per single family house
- The University of California has calculated the generation of
grass clippings at 300 to 400 pounds per 1000 square feet of lawn
- Metro estimates that grass clippings constitute up to 50 percent
of the total yard trimmings generated in the Portland metropolitan
region between March and October.
Facts about grass & grass clippings
- Grass clippings are 75 percent to 85 percent water. When you mow regularly,
they quickly decompose and release nutrients to fertilize the lawn.
- The nitrogen contained in grass clippings almost equals the
recommended application rate for healthy turf (5 pounds of nitrogen
per 1000 square feet per year). While some of this nitrogen is lost
through the decomposition process, grasscycling can have the overall
impact of reducing fertilization requirements by 25 percent or more.
- Grass clippings do not cause thatch. Thatch is a tightly
intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots of
grass that develops between the green grass and the soil surface and
is caused by short, frequent watering.
Healthy lawn maintenance practices
- Water infrequently (weekly) and deeply (six to eight inches)
with one inch of water when necessary. Use an empty tuna can to
measure the amount of water provided.
- Water during the cooler parts of the day, like in the early
morning or late afternoon, to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
Avoid watering too late in the day, when the grass is unable to dry
off. Damp grass invites diseases.
- Stay off the grass while the lawn is wet. Wet soil compacts more
easily, and grass does not grow well in compacted soil.
- Mow only when the grass is dry. Wet grass cuts poorly, clumps
and spreads diseases more easily. If the lawn is too long or wet,
use clippings in your compost pile or as mulch.
- A sharp blade is a must. Dull blades rip and tear grass,
encouraging disease and browning of your lawn.
- Mow at least once a week and reverse the mowing direction every
other time you mow. Generally you should cut your grass to about two
inches, do not remove more than 1/3 of growth at one time.
- Any lawnmower can grasscycle. All you need to do is remove the
bag! However, if your mower does not have a safety flap covering the
opening where the bag fits into the chute, or a plug for the chute,
contact your local retailer to purchase a retrofit kit. Do not
compromise your mower's safety systems.
- Dedicated mulching mowers, both gas and electric models, do an
outstanding job, even under wet conditions. They recirculate the
clippings, chop them very finely, and blow the resulting mulch down
into the lawn. There are no clippings to see or to track into the
Planning a grasscycling program for your jurisdiction
- Promotion: this is the most critical element to a successful
program. Put a lot of thought into this. Identify the specific
audience you want to reach. Tailor your message to that audience.
Match the appropriate media that will reach your audience: print,
radio, TV? Look for opportunities to piggyback on existing events,
e.g. the County Fair, Home Improvement Show, Easter Egg Roll. For
detailed information on how to promote a program, please see
Residential Backyard Composting.
- Demonstration: consider having a grasscycling demonstration site
in conjunction with a composting demonstration site, or demonstrate
grasscycling on a lawn in the center of town, in front of the
library or the County Offices, in Main Street Park, etc.
- Lawnmower Retailers and Manufacturers: contact them ahead of
time to solicit their participation and/or sponsorship. They may be
willing to offer a rebate on electric mulching mowers or push
- Technical Assistance: contact your local Oregon State University Extension Service,
Master Gardener Program (see blue pages in your phone book). They
may be able to staff the demonstration site or give a workshop on grasscycling.
- Educational Materials: see below for ideas and suggestions.
Written background documentation
- Carl Woestwin, "Evolution of home-based strategies for
residential organics," BioCycle, May 1998, 37-39.
- Roger M. Guttentag, "Recycling in Cyberspace, Grasscycling,",
Resource Recycling, June 1998, 50-52.
- Ohio State
University Extension Fact sheet
Grasscycling!, Make the Most of Your Lawn, Make the Most of Your
California Integrated Waste Management Board, Waste
Referrals to existing programs
- Metro Recycling Information, 503-234-3000
- City of Eugene, 541-682-6830
- Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle, WA.,
- Charles Reighart, Baltimore County, Department of Public Works,
Towson, MD, 410-887-2000