Naperville’s Leaf Pick-Up Program Not Picking Up

On paper and in theory, the City of Naperville’s Leaf Pick-up program sounds fantastic, but in reality, it’s not working and nobody really seems to care. For the most part, it’s another socially acceptable non-productive bureaucratic program; one of those ‘check-the-box’, it’s completed city services.

Here is how it is supposed to work. Residents are offered the opportunity to move their leaves to the curbside, and then every two weeks, over a six-week period, the city dispatches trucks to remove the leaves. During that time, three pick-ups are to occur. Then when that’s complete, a street sweeper makes a final run through to clear out any remaining debris. Sounds great except for the following snafus:

  • The leaf-removal trucks miss a lot of leaves and simply re-distribute the piles at curbside throughout the neighborhood.
  • The first pick-up begins before the leaves are ready for pick-up, the second pick-up has the most leaves for pick-up, hence leaving the biggest mess, and the third-pick up, if it does happen, is a rush job just trying to get done.
  • When the program ends, some piles of leaves remain at curbside, because residents don’t know the schedule for pick-up.

Most of my neighbors have learned that the best way to make sure the street is cleaned, is to do it themselves. All it takes is a broom, a handy-dandy dustpan, some time, and if you’re really lucky, a little hand-held leaf -blower.

I called the City for the fun of it, to see if there was any plan for the street-sweeper to roll by, and I was connected to the Department of Public Works. I spoke to a very pleasant young lady named Ginger (everybody is young compared to me) and she couldn’t provide any information about if or when a street-sweeper was in the leaf-pick-up equation. It’s not her fault, she is probably very good at what she does, but apparently her supervisor didn’t provide her with any talking points. I find it hard to believe that I am the only one wondering about the final step of the process.

It won’t be long and snow will cover any remnants of leaf piles at curbside. The City snow plow will make sure those leaves are redistributed, ultimately finding there way to covering sewers, leading to some flooding. Like clockwork, spring will arrive and the whole process will repeat itself next year. It’s just one more box the City can checkoff as completed as it does year after year after year.

Show 6 Comments


  1. Bob West

    It may not be the perfect program, but it helps. I have recently read two articles about how it is better to not remove leaves as it creates a habitat for small insects and animals, plus it actually helps your lawn. Removing leaves is just another obsession people have.
    In this case people should count their blessings. You are just anti-Naperville government and will pick on them for anything.

    • Jim Haselhorst

      I agree that more often then not this site is critical of all things Naperville and particular the City government (even for things the City government has nothing to do with).

      I live next door to a home that no one has lived in for years (the neighbors and I take turns mowing the lawn just to keep it looking nice). So the leaves have not gotten remove in the fall for several years now. The problem is the wind tends to make them accumulate in certain parts of the yard and were they set all winter they actually kills the grass. So if dead spots in the lawn does not bother a person then leaving the leaves will work.

  2. Grant W.

    When driving through the Maplebrook neighborhood, the street sweeper was right behind the leaf removal trucks. I guess it’s all about who you know. Sometimes the path along the DuPage river is cleared of snow before the city streets.

  3. Christopher Lawson

    There is so much that is right about Naperville. Even leaf removal.

    We find your inside views of how the city government is working (or not working) to be informative…but with this about leaf removal you just seem crabby.

    Still, if you must complain about such things, at the least you might want to offer alternative auggestions. It’s too easy to find fault.

  4. Mike

    I agree with Watchdog. In theory it’s a great program. In reality the streets around our area are often a mess after they come by for the pick up. I have lived here 18 years and have never seen a street sweeper come down our street. Honestly, I didn’t even know they were supposed to come by after the leaf pick ups. It is better than nothing, I guess, but you have to wonder what this costs. An alternative would be people putting them in bags, and offering free pickup of the bags earlier than the current date, which I think is November 1, but not sure of that date.

  5. Rich

    The leaf program is a huge undertaking. I’m so happy the City has this program because without it, my yard would suffer due to the amount of leaves that fall. I always leave some for habitat for smaller insects as well as mulch them for turf health. BOB WEST: It’s good to leave some leaves but you don’t want to create so much heat from decaying matter as to suffocate your lawn.

    I have to agree a bit that this seems like it is looking for fault. Offer suggestions and then we can all head to a council meeting and have our concerns addressed and already have alternatives for discussion.

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