Clearing the autumn leaves

21 November 2017

Written by: Jason Prentis, Veolia

Better streets, parks and open spaces > Council services > Transport

It only takes five fully grown trees to produce a million autumn leaves – so keeping Lambeth’s roads clean and clear means calling in reinforcements for the season.

Four road sweepers in yellow high-viz jackets, sweeping leaves into piles ready to be loaded onto truck.

Autumn – that season in between a hot and hazy summer (such as it was) and the cold, dark days of winter – is many people’s favourite time of year. But for Lambeth’s street sweepers it presents an annual challenge.

Season of leaves

As well as pumpkin spice lattes and sweet toffee apples, autumn brings an avalanche of leaves. For our sweepers, clearing them represents weeks of hard labour. It only takes five fully grown trees to produce a million leaves. While primary school children collect a few handfuls of leaves for craft projects, most end up blanketing Lambeth’s hundreds of miles of roads and pavements.

Wet and weighty

On a day when the leaves fall particularly heavily, a sweeper can fill a bag of leaves every few metres. If the leaves are wet, they’re also heavy, feeling heavier and heavier as the day goes on. And every sweeper knows the pain of thinking they’ve cleared a pavement of leaves, only to turn around at the end and see a fresh carpet of them, newly fallen.

Extra hands

That’s why we take on an additional 28 sweepers every autumn to help. They’re with us for around 10 weeks, sweeping up over 100 tonnes of leaves and helping our regular sweepers to keep on top of their normal schedules.

There are also two dustbin lorries just for picking up the bags of leaves, and a large mechanical sweeping vehicle for the roads. The enhanced service concentrates on the roads with the most trees.


Leaves in your garden

If you’ve also got a load of fallen leaves in your garden, you should either compost them or get rid of them using  Lambeth’s garden waste collection subscription service, which will deal not just with your autumn leaves, but clear your garden waste (grass cuttings, hedge trimmings etc) all year.

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