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Need To Get Rid Of That Pile Of Dead Leaves, Bushes And Branches? Recycling Centers Can Take It All

Courtesy San Antonio Solid Waste Management Department
Brush recycling centers are seeing brisk business as people drop off dead foliage following February's winter storm.

The city's two major brush centers are seeing lines of trucks haul in piles of limbs from dead trees and bushes that were killed off during February's record winter storm.

The storm's low temperatures broke records for five or six consecutive days. It was below freezing at San Antonio International Airport for a total of four days and 12 hours, one hour shy of the record continuous cold spell of 1951, according to the National Weather Service.

As the city's residents shivered in homes without power, the foliage around their homes and throughout the region withered. As skies cleared and the warmth returned, trees, bushes and other foliage were brown, shriveled and, in many cases, dead.

Many residents started pruning back dead branches in mid-March after seeing no signs of new growth. Piles of dead brush at homes have steadily grown larger.

"Everybody lost so much of their landscaping that the tonnage and participation at our drop off centers (and) our brush recycling centers has really skyrocketed," said Marcus Lee, a spokesman for the city's solid waste management department.

Business is brisk at the Bitters Brush Recycling Center at 1800 Wurzbach Parkway and at the Nelson Gardens Brush Recycling Center at 8963 Nelson Road. The hours of operation early this summer are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays-Sundays.

Sabal 2.jpg
Jack Morgan | Texas Public Radio
Sabal Palm showing damage

He said loads are weighed, and people are charged 25 cents for each 20 pounds of debris they bring in.

Lee said residents who haul in brush to the city's brush recycling centers must make sure those loads are covered as required by city code or risk a fine. He also said residents should bring a photo I.D. and a CPS Energy bill as proof of local residency.

He said residents who need further assistance can call 3-1-1 for an out-of-cycle brush pickup from their homes. There is a charge of $50 for up to four cubic yards and then a $25 charge for each additional four cubic yards.

He said if the debris is largely dead leaves, residents can also call 3-1-1 and schedule a leaf collection. He said the first two leaf pickups are free, but subsequent requests cost $20.

Lee said residents should rake leaves into brown leaf disposal bags especially designed for such a purpose. He said the city will not take leaves in plastic bags. He added that those marked as biodegradable in fact do not decompose.

Lee said residents can also reduce piles of brush by trimming them into limbs of three feet or less and place them in their green organics cart. He said those carts should not be overstuffed, and the lids must be able to close.

Brian Kirkpatrick | Texas Public Radio
Nurseries are seeing brisk business as customers shop for new plants.

He said those carts will be picked up on the regular scheduled days, but he asked for patience because of all the dead brush being placed curbside.

"We will get to it. If the route is behind, give it to five in the afternoon before you report it to 3-1-1 as a missed collection, we may just be a little bit behind," he said.

He said residents also have the option of waiting for one of the city's two major curbside brush pickup days. He said residents will find a tag on their doors when their neighborhood is scheduled.

He said all the debris coming into brush recycling sites is turned into either coarsely ground mulch or finely ground mulch. Residents can have the coarse mulch for free or pay a small fee for 20 pounds of fine mulch. Both varieties help landscaping retain moisture during San Antonio's long, hot summer months.

All those dead plants has led to a planting boom too. Local nurseries, like Rainbow Gardens, set some sales records in March.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian