Posted in: Homeowner tips

Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer: How do I legally get rid of fall leaves?

Fall leaf disposal

Homeownership can be complicated, but we also think it’s one of the most rewarding ventures out there. In our series, Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer, we are hoping to demystify some of the trickier aspects of buying, selling and owning a home.

In this edition, one of our lawyers discusses how homeowners can legally dispose of the leaf piles overtaking their yards.

Dear Edina Realty Legal,

Fall is here and I need to do something with all the leaves piling up in my yard. Can I burn them? Or push them into the street for the street sweeper?

Burning leaves used to be quite common, but many municipalities now ban or discourage leaf burning for a variety of reasons, including safety, air pollution and health impacts. In fact, most cities have adopted regulations regarding leaf disposal and leaf burning.

Let’s explore how to legally dispose of all those leaves overtaking your front and back yards.

Minnesota state law on leaf burning

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) requires open burning permits for any fire that is more than three feet high and three feet in diameter, unless the ground is covered in three inches of snow or the fire is contained in an approved burner or similar device.

A permit will allow you to burn vegetative materials including grass, leaves and other brush. So if you do want to burn your fall leaf piles, you can obtain a permit from any MDNR Forestry office, fire warden, or through the MDNR's website.

Wisconsin state law on leaf burning

For Wisconsin residents, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) also offers burning permits; the need for an open burning permit is dependent upon the location of your proposed burn. If you live in Wisconsin, you can both check your location’s permit requirements, and obtain a permit:

  • Through the WDNR’s website.
  • By visiting a WDNR office or an emergency fire warden.

Local regulations on leaf burning

Getting a permit may be just the first step to legally burning your leaves, though. You should also check with your local government authority to ensure you’re not breaking a local ordinance.

Many cities have adopted stricter regulations regarding open burning; cities from Edina to Aurora, Minnesota, have prohibited leaf burning entirely. And while open burning is likely acceptable (and quite common) in rural areas, you should still check your county, township, or village regulations if you reside outside city limits. You’ll also want to consider the environmental impact and health and safety risks that can accompany leaf burning.

If I can’t burn my leaves, what are my disposal options?

If you cannot burn your leaves, can you rake them into the street and wait for the street sweeper to pick them up? Probably not.

While some cities, like Mankato, offer a leaf vacuum service for residents, most cities prohibit pushing leaves or other yard waste into the street; the buildup could have a potentially damaging impact on natural bodies of water and can plug sewer drains.

However, your garbage hauler may offer an easy yard waste pick-up service. Typically, the company will require you to bag up the leaves in a yard waste bag, then they pick it up curbside with your usual trash and recycling.

If that’s not an option, many local governments have yard waste disposal sites. Contact your local government authority to see if there is a disposal site nearby.

And of course, there are other ways to repurpose leaves! You can always consider getting into the world of composting, or using your leaves as mulch to protect your plants over our long Midwestern winters.

The Edina Realty Legal Department serves as in-house counsel for Edina Realty and does not represent private clients. This Insight is not intended to provide legal advice.

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