A new study shows Iowans are sending fewer recyclable materials to the landfill, but there’s still room for improvement. Brian Tormey, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Land Quality Bureau, says the results show Iowans are recycling more materials than the time of the last studies in 2005 and 1998.
“There’s a lot less paper (in landfills), a lot less aluminum cans and plastic beverage containers. So, that shows our recycling programs are effective,” Tormey said. The study involved nine Iowa landfills and 62 material categories. It shows paper and organic matter each make up 25% of the products going to Iowa landfills. Plastics account for 16.7%.
The report also breaks down the amount of trash coming from residences and commercial industry. Tormey is surprised with the amount of cardboard going to landfills from businesses. The report shows over 13% of the material being sent to landfills from the industrial sector is made of cardboard.
That compares to just 4% among homes and apartments. “That tells us we need to find a way to get to the commercial sector and recycle cardboard,” Tormey said. One of the hurdles to cutting the amount of cardboard going to landfills is the lack of recycling programs in much of rural Iowa.
“How we develop the infrastructure to collect cardboard from the commercial sector in rural areas is something we need to think through,” Tormey said. Around 13% of the organic matter going to landfills is food waste. Tormey says Iowa could reduce that food waste by following strategies developed by the E.P.A.
The effort targets leftover food from large stadium events, college and university functions, and grocery stores. Tormey says that food waste, if it’s still edible, is directed toward food kitchens or homeless shelters. A D.N.R. program designed to divert hazardous materials from landfills appears to by paying off.
Tormey says those items include automotive products, household cleaners, pesticides and paint. The 1998 report found hazardous materials comprised 1.4% of the waste going to landfills. Now, that total is down to 0.2%.
see the full report here: www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/LandStewardship/WasteManagement.aspx