Recycling is more than empty bottles and old newspapers for some Northeast Mississippi cities, and that's good news for gardeners.

Tupelo, Corinth and Oxford all have ways to get leaves and mulch to the public, either by pickup or special delivery.

In Tupelo, piles at the city leaf-mulch site stand 10 feet and higher, representing the rakings of countless yards. They are available for hauling by residents who want to use them to mulch gardens and flower beds or to furnish the brown matter for batches of compost.

Leaves and grass clippings from previous years already have composted themselves, breaking down through a bio-chemo-thermo process that turns their nutrients into a form readily usable by plants.

"As long as they've got a pickup, they can get all they want," said Rudy Young, a supervisor in the Tupelo Public Works Department, noting that bigger truckload quantities need to be negotiated.

The site is unfenced, but officials prefer that people come between 7:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. weekdays (until 10:45 a.m. on Fridays), when a city employee is often available to load the "garden gold" with a front-end loader onto trucks and trailers.

Sid Russell, Tupelo's director of public works, said homeowners also are encouraged to drop off their leaves.

"Waste Management will pick up eight to 10 bags at a time from a home, but bagged leaves go to the landfill," he said. "That's why we offer the compost site. We just ask that people take their bags home and use them again."

Corinth yard waste is hauled to the rubbish site on Linden Street, where, like in Tupelo, it is available for pickup.

"There's a front-end loader out there, so they'll load it for you," said Corinth Public Works employee Christy Wood.

Starkville and New Albany are among the cities that do not offer mulch or compost because of extra regulations. Oxford's yard waste is not available to the public, either, once it reaches the rubbish site.

"If we let the public have the leaves, we'd have to be licensed as a composting facility," said Oxford Sanitation Director Randy Russell. "Instead, we use them for erosion control."

Oxford gardeners have an even better option, however. The city saves labor by encouraging homeowners to pile their leaves curbside rather than to bag them, enabling them to be picked up quickly with a vacuum truck - unlike Tupelo, where city officials say leaf-blocked storm drains offset any advantages.

"We have times when customers want leaves for their garden or something," Russell said. During the fall, which actually extends into January, he said, "As long as they're inside the city or just outside - so we wouldn't be hauling them any farther than we would to the landfill - we're glad to take them a load."

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

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