In October 2021, Charleston City Council passed a resolution to lead by example and transition our gas-powered City leaf blowers (about 90) to alternative options, such as electric blowers or rakes and brooms, by summer 2023.
Leaf Blower Resolution
The City commits to eliminating all gasoline-powered leaf blowers currently used by the City. City Departments are directed to prioritize this transition in their budgets so that by July 1, 2023, the City will no longer be using gasoline-powered leaf blowers, but a more energy efficient and quieter alternative.
The City will provide businesses and residents education about alternatives to gasoline-powered leaf blowers. During this time, the City will also continue to research, and when feasible, implement resource sharing opportunities and buy-back programs to help facilitate residents and businesses in upgrading their equipment. The City will create a new webpage to house all this information.
The City encourages and challenges all businesses and residents who use gasoline-powered leaf blowers to explore and consider the alternative options available.
City staff is further instructed to monitor the City’s transition away from gasoline-powered leaf blowers, as well as how private businesses and residents transition, such as through surveys, education or incentive programs to the best of the staff’s abilities. Staff, one year from the signing of this Resolution, shall then provide an update along with any additional recommendations to the Resiliency and Sustainability Advisory Committee.
The City reminds all operators of leaf blowers to not allow any leaves, dirt or other debris blown to enter the storm drain system. All leaves, dirt or any other debris blown on the public right-of-way must be cleaned up and removed properly per City Code Section 27-42.
Pollution associated with gas powered leaf blowers
Inefficient engines: Most leaf blowers are gasoline powered with 2-stroke engines that are highly inefficient. They mix oil and gas together so they can have a smaller, lightweight engine.
Water quality issues: Fuel spillage when refueling small engines is common, especially 2-stroke engines which mix the oil and gas together. Spilled fuel and oil gets into our soils and enters our groundwater and waterways, also affecting wildlife.
Health challenges: Blowing leaves and dirt stir up particulate matter in air, affecting lungs and air quality. This can cause or exacerbate health problems, such as asthma. The max mph of the air blower directly affects how much particulates are resuspended into the air and electric blowers have less air speed right now. 200mph is only slightly less than 230 mph, but stir up 50% less fine particulates while still moving large items like leaves. Many particulate issues can be helped by better training of operators.
Noise and quality of life concerns: Many residents have expressed concerns to the City about the noise pollution, sighting the intermittent hum of the leaf blower as a reduction in their quality of life.
Greenhouse gas emissions: Lots of pollutants are spewed from this inefficient engine, such as carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides, carcinogenic hydrocarbons and other air toxins. A 2011 study by Edmunds found "the hydrocarbon emissions from a half hour of yard work are about the same as a 3,900 mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Ford Raptor truck"!
Because of these concerns, over 100 cities across the US have banned or restricted leaf blowers in some way- most in favor of electric blowers.