One Leaf-Pick-Up Remaining

I have lived in Naperville for almost 40 years, and for most of those years I never noticed the leaf pick-up process. There would be a pile of leaves in the street and they would magically disappear by the time I came home from work. Now that I have retired the leaf guy always seems to come by when I’m getting the mail. It’s difficult to miss him; the truck sounds like a German Panzer Tank rolling through the neighborhood.

I live on a circle, at least that’s what the street sign shows. It’s more like the letter ‘C’. There are probably 20 homes on the ‘C’ (circle). Most of the homes rake their leaves onto the street. I take it a step further. I make sure the leaves are about 18 inches from the curb, and then I water them down to make sure they don’t blow around. A good number of my neighbors do the same thing. Last week the second round of leaf-pick-up occurred. A little snow-plow-like vehicle came around and plowed the leaves about five feet from the curb to the street. No longer did the leaves adhere together, and they became ideal targets for younger drivers to drive through.

A few days later, here comes the same guy, again plowing the leaves, a few inches towards the middle of the street. About an hour later I hear the sound of the German Tank approaching our street. It takes about five minutes for the truck to appear and it’s pulling a leaf sucker upper with a guy sitting on it looking like a statue, no movement, just trying to stay warm.

Here is where it gets interesting. The leaves are getting sucked up into a chute with many leaves not making it to the chute, they are flying out. The leaves that are making into the chute are then blowing out into the truck, with half of those leaves blowing out of the truck. It reminded me of when I mow, and the grass catcher gets full, the clippings begin to fly out.  I’m guessing 25 to 30% of the leaves on the street actually make it into the truck. The other 70 to 75% make it back onto the street, except now they are evenly distributed all over the street, rather than in a pile.

No doubt that the company contracted to pick up the leaves is doing the work, but not with the intended results. Another classic example of socially acceptable non-productive work, paid for by the good folks of Naperville.

Show 4 Comments


  1. Gerard H Schilling

    You left out that the wind in the next two days blows the 30% of unrecovered and redistributed leaves back on to our lawns requiring yet another rake-up and re-depositing into a new pile. More job security for the folks collecting the leaves no doubt.

  2. Jim Haselhorst

    I work but on occasion I have been home when the leaf collection crew comes round. In the past they had guys with rakes move the leaves away from the curb a few feet before the “vacuum” truck comes to pick them up, which was nice because if any leaves were on the curb or in the parkway they would rack them into the street. Now they have the plow vehicle that move the leave from the curb, maybe a foot further out, but no were close to the middle of the street.

    I live on a main street with lots of traffic (all ages) and the guy that pushes the leaves from the curb is not that far a head of the guy picking them up. Also most drivers avoid hitting these leaves because there is not telling what might be buried in them and the damage it could do to a vehicle. As to leaves blowing back out, I have not see this, but the truck bed is generally less then half full. I have seen some leaves missing the truck on really windy days.

    The guys doing this are city employees with the Public Works Department, not contractors. The reason they end when they do is because these are the snowplow trucks and they need to convert them back to their plowing and salting configurations for the winter.

  3. Gene Muratore

    Is Steve Piper an employee of the Public Works Department? I see equipment with his name prominently displayed working some neighborhoods doing leaf pickup. If you observe closely, there are several “methods” used for leaf pickup. There is the “vacuum hose system”, there is a rake type system trailing an enclosed truck, and some years endloaders have been used to plow leaves into a gargantuan pile and then loaded into large tractor/trailer units.My observation is that the Steve Piper system works best.
    I would suggest that there is a great deal of controversy over the methods, efficiency, and timing of leaf pickup in Naperville. Look at the trees in any neighborhood of the city. We are about to enter the last pickup cycle and many trees have green leaves still hanging.

    • Jim Haselhorst

      In my neighborhood I have only seen city workers with the vacuum system. According to the city there are some areas were leaf pickup is not handled by the city and are not part of the city’s leaf collection program. For example unincorporated areas, park & school district property,etc are not part of the city program but are within city limits.

      Some years there are still a lot of leaves on the trees when loose curbside pickup ends and other years none. The timing of when this program starts and ends has to do with the city’s schedule of other programs not the timing of mother nature’s fall. The vehicles the city uses are also the city snowplow trucks and they need to start converting them for this purpose early enough that they are available for the first possible snow. This is why the city has the free curbside bag pickup program that starts October 30, 2017 and goes to December 15, 2017 (never seen any leaves still on any trees by this time of the year).

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