Polluted leaf blower disappears, but leaf blower does not: ‘Take the rake’

Polluted leaf blower disappears, but leaf blower does not: 'Take the rake'

Once the first fall leaves begin to fall, it is time for municipalities and individuals to use leaf blowers. It always causes inconvenience to many people, due to noise, polluting emissions and also effect on nature. Dutch municipalities are now beginning to realize this and are adjusting their approach.

According to Arnold van Vliet, a biologist at the University of Wageningen, you impoverish the environment by getting rid of leaves. “This is because food is removed from the soil. In a natural ecosystem, fungi and bacteria break down leaves. There is a lot of life in rotting leaves. And those insects also attract birds.”

Then there is the hype. Emma Furman (59) from Dorworth (Gilderland) can talk about it. I shared her annoyance on Twitter. “They were busy in the parking lot of my apartment and on the other side along the main road. I hard of hearing and I wear an artificial hearing. That’s why I can’t hear the direction very well, so it takes a while before I understand where it’s coming from.”

Foreman says he struggled with this for a long time. “I also have ringing in the ears and that plays a big role. Then it doesn’t help to take off my hearing prostheses. Then it takes half a day to a whole day before I suppress the ringing.”

Finally, there are emissions. Leaf blowers blow toxic substances such as nitrogen dioxide and particulates into the air, which are harmful to people and the climate. A US study found that four-stroke and two-stroke variants of the leaf blower emit more pollutants than the nearly 3,000-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor.

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Municipalities are working on it

The then Environment Minister Van Veldhoven said in a letter to Parliament dated January 2020 that these harassments have been going on for some time, but that there is no general ban. The minister referred to European rules. Municipalities can, however, “phase out” contaminating blowers, for example by requiring more environmentally friendly methods when issuing new orders.

Municipalities can also prohibit citizens from using leaf blowers at certain times or places. “I don’t think it is the job of the national government to intervene here, but I want to bring this issue to the attention of the municipalities through the VNG (Confederation of Dutch Municipalities),” Van Veldhoven wrote.

A VNG spokesperson does not know if van Veldhoven has actually reported this to the association. “But I’m sure it wasn’t necessary, because the municipalities are already working on it.” VNG cannot determine which municipalities have set rules around leaf blowers. There is no specific text included in the Model General Local Regulation that VNG establishes for municipalities. “But several municipalities have added an article themselves,” says the spokesperson.

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