At least two cities in Iowa are diverting tons of food waste from entering their local landfills. Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jordan says her agency has been collecting food scraps from the dining halls at the University of Iowa for nearly two years.
“We get roughly 1,000 pounds (of food waste) per week…so about 200 pounds per day,” Jordan said. The food waste is mixed with yard waste and turned into compost. The Iowa Recycling Association held it’s annual conference this week in Waterloo. Jordan collected all of the food scraps from the conference that would’ve gone in the trash and took it back to Iowa City.
“We brought back 200 pounds of food waste,” Jordan said. “That was both from what was collected in the kitchen from kitchen staff, as well as the plate scrapings from the attendees who were at the conference.”
Dubuque is the only city in Iowa with a curbside food waste recycling program, but it’s limited to 300 households, businesses and institutions. Jordan believes Iowa City could have a similar curbside pickup program in place within a few years. “When we start the program for the public, we want to focus on places where we can get a lot of bang for the buck,” Jordan said.
“We’re looking at restaurants and grocery stores, where we’re really going to be able to make a difference in their waste reduction efforts.” According to a 2005 Iowa Department of Natural Resources study, more than 25% of the materials placed in garbage bins could be processed into compost. Jordan says food waste that ends up in landfills creates methane gas.
“Composting is actually a really good, easy and relatively inexpensive way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from landfills,” Jordan said. “So, it’s really important to think about that aspect too. It’s not just a waste reduction, but it’s actually a greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide reducer as well.” Currently, DNR rules allow Iowa cities to dump two-tons of food materials into yard waste composting sites every week. Jordan says the agency is in the process of amending that rule and increasing the weekly limit.