Time to Revisit the Leaf Blower Law?
By Chris Cohan
Rye has an across-the-board seasonal ban on leaf blowers — gas, electric cord or battery-powered — from May 1 through September 30. The law was enacted with sincere intentions, but many citizens and landscapers fail to obey or simply disregard it. This creates tension and frustration between neighbors and towards landscapers. The police, who have to enforce the law, would welcome change as well. It’s time to revisit this law to improve compliance and deliver the results we want.
Southampton bans only gas-powered blowers after May 19, which applies to tennis and beach clubs, as well as to municipal employees, while the ban in Scarsdale and Yonkers is June 1 to September 30. Over 100 communities across the country have a similar gas-powered leaf blower ban, which brought about wider use of battery- powered models.
Mother Nature is very busy in May with pollination, her most important task, producing messy catkins, winged seed pods, and pollen. They cover patios, clog drains, and fill gutters. And May is filled with important occasions, from confirmations, Mother’s Day, and graduations, when people want their properties spotless.
Landscapers and many homeowners are frustrated with the May 1 ban. They feel we should be more in line with the realities of spring and move to a later date ban. A June 1 ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, which Scarsdale and Yonkers both have, would be helpful. I’ve spoken to landscapers in Scarsdale who state that the use of battery-powered blowers year-round allows them to complete their work efficiently and provide customer satisfaction while helping to keep their costs and rates down.
There are 80-volt battery-powered leaf blowers that deliver high performance like many gas-powered models. They operate at a conversation level of 60 decibels. Major benefits are no-maintenance, price, light weight, freedom from gas fumes, electric cords, quieter operation, and improved environmental quality. Homeowners could handle all their chores this way. Landscapers say the newer battery-powered blowers can handle a substantial amount of their work, too.
Gas-powered leaf blowers rely on primitive, noisy, and highly polluting technology. Two-stroke engines burning a slurry of gasoline and oil is so inefficient, especially in older models, that 30 percent of the fuel is sprayed straight out as polluting aerosols. The fuel is so crudely burned that one little leaf blower can be vastly more polluting than many modern cars.
Let’s embrace a way to transition away from gas-powered leaf blowers. This may be a classic opportunity of a carrot-and-stick approach to achieve exactly the results we desire. The City of Rye should revisit the leaf blower ban. Allowing year-round use of battery-powered machines would incentivize both industry and homeowners to upgrade to cleaner and quieter ones. Municipal entities, schools, and others exempt should be considered for inclusion in the law, or, at the very least, be encouraged to comply.