With any luck the election will be decided by the time loose leaf collection begins in Greensboro on Nov. 9.

This much-used city program has been controversial for years.

Cost is the primary reason the program is controversial and it is based on a flawed analysis of the cost of the program. The standard argument against loose leaf collection is that if the city abolished the program the city could “save” the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on loose leaf collection.

What opponents of the program largely ignore is that the leaves, whether loose or in bags, have to be picked up. As long as the city continues to collect yard waste, it will have to pick up leaves. So the real question is whether picking up the leaves piled up by the curb or leaves in bags is more costly.

Field Services Director Dale Wyrick, when asked about switching from loose leaf collection to requiring that leaves be bagged, said, “We wouldn’t save any money by doing that.”

He said, “Doing away with loose leaf collection would basically put the burden of collection on our yard waste collection crews and the cost would actually be more.”

Wyrick said that collecting bagged leaves is labor intensive and added, “Then your have to debag the leaves when they get to the landfill.”

The leaves are composted at the White Street Landfill. That compost is used by the city in its parks and gardens and can be purchased by residents for $20 a truckload.

The debagging noted by Wyrick is not only labor intensive, there is also the environmental aspect of the whole affair. Many people believe that as a society we should use less plastic. If everyone in the city were required to bag their leaves, tens of thousands of additional plastic bags would be going to the landfill.

Another aspect of loose leaf collection that seems to get overlooked by opponents is that the city currently has the equipment for loose leaf collection. If the city abandoned that program and required leaves to be bagged, then the city would have to purchase new equipment.

The first round of loose leaf pickup begins on Nov. 9 and ends Dec. 23. Theoretically, to be certain your leaves get picked up in that first round, you should have them out by the street by Nov. 9. In reality, if you look around your neighborhood and leaves haven’t been picked up yet, you still have time to get your leaves out to the street.

The second round of loose leaf collection will be from Dec. 29 to Jan. 29. Both rounds of loose leaf collection are subject to weather delays.