It’s that time of year and we expect most leaves to fall during the next 6 weeks, so we’ve implemented our Leafing Plan. This will involve clearing approximately 1,000 tonnes of leaves (approx. 200,000 bags!) over and above the usual litter levels.
As part of the plan, the Council is employing an additional 11 staff, will use two extra waste collection vehicles, and a combination of equipment, including leaf blowers, shovels, scoops and paddles. We’re also going to be testing some electric leaf blowers to minimise noise nuisance in residential areas during 6-8am weekdays and 6-9am at weekends. Particular priority is also being given to keeping gully covers clear of leaves in areas that experienced flooding.
The scale of the challenge means that we also need to pair-up the regular street sweepers across most of north Westminster, and other locations with a higher density of trees as two people working together can accomplish more than double the output that they could working alone. Unfortunately, this does mean that on many streets the sweeping frequency drops during the leafing period, so we do appreciate peoples’ patience during this period.
What happens to the leaves we collect? Unfortunately, we are not allowed to compost our leaves. The Environment Agency stated that street leaves should not be used to produce compost due to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and the wider range of volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, micro plastics and animal faeces present in city leaves. Therefore, all of our leaves are converted into electricity and district heating.
We’re currently clearing leaves from streets 2-3 times per week, which is the maximum that can be achieved with the resources available.
Slips and falls from wet leaves on the pavement is the key safety risk we are managing, but keeping gullies clear as far as practical has also been prioritised for this year with Members highlighting specific locations that are prone to flooding.
The high winds and exceptionally heavy rain experienced on Wednesday night was unusual but likely to happen more frequently as weather patterns become less predictable.
We’re proposing to change our leafing plan with immediate effect so that when rain is forecast the sweepers will clear the areas immediately around gullies, rather than clearing leaves from the entire street.
This will mean we can protect more gullies from flooding, but there are far more gullies than sweepers, so we’ll continue to work on risk rating individual streets and areas.