Benton Clean Air Agency

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.


Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.


Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.


Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317