Closing the Gap: Iowa’s Effort to Recycle is Hampered by a System That Favors Dumping

Farm belt state struggles in shift to recycling
More than half of what Iowans dump into landfills could have been recycled or composted. In some areas, that amount is as high as 75 percent, landfill operators said. An IowaWatch investigation revealed that the gap between tons dumped into the ground and tons recycled at Iowa’s top five waste agencies is widening. And unless something changes, it’s set to stay that way because of a lack of available recycling programs, the way recycling and landfill programs are funded by the state, and poor record keeping. Reo Menning, public affairs director with the Metro Waste Authority located near Mitchellville, explains bluntly: “If recycling doesn’t happen, landfills will fill up faster, and the cost for garbage will go up.”

Colors denote intensity of tonnage in fiscal year 2012.

Iowa City Struggles with Recycling at Apartments, Condos

Four of every five households in Iowa City, a city with an aggressive recycling program, do not have access to curbside recycling. The availability of residential recycling gets even smaller where curbside service is not available. “Compared to the number of trash Dumpsters, the number of recycling Dumpsters is pretty small. I would say it’s less than 10 percent,” Jen Jordan, recycling coordinator at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, said. Jordan blames this on people not wanting to pay private garbage haulers the extra cost for recycling services when haulers offer the services.