Officials want Central New Jersey residents to think twice about recycling grass. The Middlesex County Improvement Authority’s Recycling Division is promoting grasscycling--that is, leaving short grass clippings on area lawns rather than bagging the cut grass and leaving it on curbs.

Officials estimate that one-fourth of the 5,293 tons of grass collected from the county was recycled last year. The division wants to challenge the misconception that leftover grass clippings can cause thatch or unwelcome dead grass roots and stems.

“The real source of thatch is overwatering, over-fertilizing or cutting your lawn too short,” said Ed Windas, recycling division manager. “In reality, grass particles act as a natural fertilizer for lawns because they redistribute nitrogen into the ground. Studies have shown that grasscycling helps to shelter tender grass roots from the sun, conserves moisture and encourages weed- and disease-resistant lawns.”

Grass clippings are among the most expensive yard-waste products to recycle, costing the local communities $37 a ton for disposal. Once collected, these grass clippings are either processed into a soil additive by a vendor or transported to the state’s landfills, where the grass assists in speeding up waste decomposition.

Aside from positive environmental effects, grasscycling can also pay off for municipalities. Experts estimate that dropping the bag-and-drag routine for grass disposal will reduce time spent on lawn care by 35 percent.