When my family and I moved into our current residence some 17 years ago, my first encounter with a neighbor was the guy next door, Brian, stopping by to ask me to please not burn leaves. I admit to being taken aback, since it was only the 1st day of August, but after his explanation of how the burning leaves affected his son's asthma, I quickly agreed. It wasn't all that long afterward that leaf burning was banned.

For many years, and for many people, leaf burning was how you got rid of everything your trees so rudely dumped onto your lawn. It not only solved the problem of what to do with the leaves, the scent, for many of us who loved that smell, was not unlike the smell of pine at Christmastime. It marked the season.

Now, except for certain areas, that option is gone, and has been for quite a while. Most of us have gotten used to the raking or leaf-vacuuming, and we dutifully bag up our piles for pickup. Other spots allow you to rake your leaves into the gutters of your street, with the leaves later being vacuumed up by trucks that come by.

Maybe you're new to town and wondering what our rules and regulations are, or you've forgotten because you've got plenty of more important things to retain in your brain. Whatever the reason, yesterday the City of Rockford issued an advisory on leaf collection and disposal.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Residents are instructed to avoid prohibited clearance methods such as leaf burning or leaf disposal in streets, detention basins, rivers, creeks, drainage ways, and ditches. These actions are in violation of City codes as well as causes nuisance flooding and downstream pollution.
  • Property owners are responsible to make sure storm inlets adjacent to their property are free of leaves and other debris that may cause blockages.
  • Residents can dispose of yard waste on their regular garbage pick-up day through the end of November, provided they are properly contained and placed at the curb.
  • Regulation containers include 30-40 gallon biodegradable 2-ply paper bags as well as standard garbage cans 32 gallons or less marked with a bold “X” on the side of the can set to face the street
  • There is a 50-pound maximum weight limit for all approved containers
  • Branches and limbs less than 4 inches in diameter may be bundled with string or twine and placed for pick-up as long as they do not exceed four feet in length, two feet in diameter, and 50 pounds by weight
  • Yard waste cannot be mixed with regular garbage
  • Leaves can also be composted or mulched to provide valuable nutrients for lawns and flower beds. Burning of leaves and other landscaping waste is illegal in the City of Rockford
  • In addition, street sweeping will continue throughout the fall leaf season. Every effort will be made to sweep the naturally falling leaves in the street area; however, this operation is not designed to pick up leaves or yard waste swept into the street

If you've got questions about leaf collection and/or disposal, please contact the City of Rockford Community and Economic Development Department at 779-348-7160 or the City of Rockford Public Works Department at 779-348-7175.