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Leaves are falling. Make sure to dispose of them properly.

Disposing of yard waste, including grass clippings and leaves, in a lake, river, stream, or wetland is harmful to water quality. It adds excessive phosphorus and can deplete the oxygen in the water, which can kill aquatic animals. It can also impair our ability to recreate, and it harms fish habitat.

leaf litter pile falling into a river

Pile of leaves and pine needles falling into a river.


Under Michigan’s littering law, disposing of yard waste in the water is a civil infraction that can be ticketed by local law enforcement and is punishable with fines from $800 to $5,000 depending on the circumstances. It is also in a violation of Michigan water pollution control regulations, which are enforced by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and is punishable with much higher fines.

EGLE encourages Michigan residents to compost, schedule pick-up with local waste providers that offer yard waste collection, or find a drop off location for composting yard waste by calling your local municipality, seeing EGLE’s map of registered composters, or searching the Michigan Recycling Directory. Find out more about composting at

The burning of yard waste is considered open burning and may not be allowed by state and local regulations in your area. The burning of trees, logs, brush, and stumps is allowed as long as it is conducted further than 1,400 feet from the boundary of an incorporated city or village and does not cause a nuisance. The open burning of these materials may require a burn permit. Visit to find out if one is required in your area. The open burning of grass clippings and leaves is prohibited in any municipality that has a population of 7,500 or more, unless specifically authorized by a local ordinance, which was submitted to EGLE within 30 days of the enactment.

Local ordinances can be more restrictive than state regulations, so it is important to check with your local unit of government for additional open burning restrictions. Local law enforcement can also ticket for open burning under air pollution and waste regulations implemented by EGLE.  Learn more about open burning, including the health and environmental hazards associated with open burning, at