GIMME SHELTER- Leaf grief: Bag or vacuum? That's the question

Steve Lawson
Public Service Manager, Charlottesville Public Works Department


Q: Does the City collect leaves? If so, do I need to bag them or can I just rake them out to the curb? And where do all those leaves go?

A: Leaf raking is a great fall activity. It gets people outside in the crisp autumn air and is a resourceful way to get exercise while being productive. But when it comes to those seemingly endless bags of pesky leaves, some people would just as soon wait for Jack Frost to work his decompositional magic as schlep bag upon bag out to the curb. That's why the city of Charlottesville offers some easy solutions to leave residents worry- and leaf-free while transitioning into winter.

The City delivered plastic bags to each property in the middle of October, and leaf collection will continue through the end of February. If we have a rough winter, it could go even longer than that. Everyone starts with one roll of 25 bags. Bags are also available in City Hall at the treasurer's office and at the Public Works building on 4th street. As our guys collect, they leave replacement bags.

Residents have the choice of bagging and leaving the bags on the curb to be picked up or raking them and leaving the piles at the curb to be vacuumed. While bag pick-up is weekly, the vacuum collection is only twice a season. A complete 2007-08 leaf collection schedule is available online at (click on the header "I Want To...Check Status of"). In addition, individual maps of collection areas and dates will be delivered to every household in the next two weeks. 

For a guaranteed pick-up, we encourage residents to bag leaves and arrange them neatly by the street at the beginning of each week. If they decide to rake leaves to the curb for the vacuum pick-up, they should wait until the scheduled week for their neighborhood, as leaves can block sidewalks and cover drainage structures.   

Ever wonder where those piles go once they leave the backyard? Maybe the giant landfill in the sky? While trash goes to a landfill in Richmond, leaves go to Panorama Farm on Earlysville Road where they're turned into compost. The compost is usually sold to local gardening centers, but it can also be delivered to individual properties (call 978-4566). Leaf collection creates about 2,000 annual tons, a number that's slightly reduced when the leaves are composted.

Again, for more information about fall leaf collection or trash pick up, citizens can go to the City of Charlottesville website at or call our Public Service office at 434-970-3830.