The Department of Natural Resources is working to divert tons of material that would normally go to landfills and save Iowa companies millions of dollars in disposal fees in the process. The program is called the Iowa Waste Exchange and it includes an on-line database where users can offer their excess materials or browse for a desired product. Program manager Linda King says it’s surprising to see how one person’s junk can become another person’s treasure.
"Everything from expired seed corn to hog hair, feathers and waste food…actually the list is fairly endless," King said. Shelly Codner of Ankeny works for the Waste Exchange. She’s one of six DNR representatives that visit Iowa businesses to see if their waste can be recycled by another firm.
"Basically, we’re dumpster divers and garbage gurus – digging in trash to find waste streams that are of value," Codner said. A couple years ago, Codner located a company in Mason City that had a warehouse full of hundreds of Lambchop puppets with a minor defect. Instead of throwing the puppets in the trash, Codner got them in the hands of children.
"The insignia on Lambchop’s stomach was a little off center, so they couldn’t sell these materials," Codner explained. "We found hospitals and local churches and all of those materials went to them – and they handed them out to children." This year, another company enlisted Codner’s help to avoid dumping hundreds of windows from front-loading washing machines in the trash.
Codner contacted the Moberg Art Gallery in Des Moines and the windows are now part of a unique display inside a downtown building. She says an artist named Stretch incorporated the windows into a huge, lighted display inside the Davis-Brown towers. King says the Iowa Waste Exchange is a free, confidential service of the DNR.