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Final fate of leaf bags rests in receivers' hands

While driving around Central Point today, I noticed hundreds of black plastic bags full of leaves on curbs, waiting to be picked up to be turned into mulch. I think the mulch idea is great, but what happens to all of those black plastic bags? That seems like a lot of plastic that we don’t need more of in the landfills.

— Lori G

We called the fine folks at Jackson County Environmental Public Health in search of an answer for you, Lori, but we didn’t find as straightforward of an answer as you would wish.

That’s because the county itself, though it administers the Leaf Exchange Program, doesn’t get involved with the deals worked out between leaf-givers and leaf-seekers, said Sandra Brand. She’s an office assistant there.

“We don’t ever see any,” she said.

Instead, the county simply offers a way for people looking to shed leaves and others looking to spread them as mulch or compost to connect with each other. They contact each other and arrange their own pick-ups and drop-offs, Brand said.

Sometimes, when people call in to sign up for the program, Brand told us, they’ll specify that they’re interested in a certain kind of leaf — or conversely, that they want to avoid other types of leaves. A person who had signed up earlier that day had said she wanted no oak and no black walnut leaves.

Why is that, you might ask? Brand doesn’t know most of the time.

“They usually don’t tell me,” she said. “They just tell me they want them.”

Anyone can sign up to participate in the leaf exchange program anytime during the year by calling 541-774-7835. You might even reach Brand there.

As for the plastic, since the leaves may be wet or dirty inside the bags, it seems likely that they wind up in the landfill in many cases, sorry to report, Lori. The only bright spot about that would be them avoiding the wishful recycling route — as waste managers have been repeating in earnest since the onset of our ongoing recycling crisis, that film plastic can wreak havoc in a sorting facility and mess with materials that can be recycled.

A patient individual, however, might just find use for them in bagging leaves next year.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.