City officials and non-profits open new recycling center


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Janel Hanmer said recycling is important for her children's future.

The Iowa City resident sat on Sunday afternoon with her sons, Turing Zelsnack, 6, and Huxley Zelsnack, 4, at the new East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Blvd., listening to a story about conserving the Earth's resources.

"I think minimizing the surface's use is important to my kids, because they've got the rest of their lives and their children's lives to use what we have," she said as Turing clung to her.

Hanmer was one of roughly 40 community members who gathered at the new facility's unveiling ceremony on Sunday, which was Earth Day. City officials collaborated on the six-year project with the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity and its ReStore organization.

The facility is complemented by many operations, including an environmental-education center, the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Friends of Historic Preservation Salvage Barn, and the ReStore's Furniture Project, which gives donated furniture to families in need.

"It sets an example and serves to show the community about how we should think about constructing and operating public facilities and hopefully private facilities for decades to come," Mayor Matt Hayek said during the ceremony.

Hayek said the facility will provide an array of opportunities for community involvement, including partnerships with the school system and full-service recycling resources.

The recycling center is the first in the state of Iowa to provide such extensive services to the community, said Kumi Morris, Iowa City's architecture-services coordinator.

"That's really the goal of the site, to be an educational facility as well as to have landfill diversion …" she said.

The project began in 2008 but was pushed back following the flood. The center cost the city $3.28 million and was fully funded by landfill tipping fees — revenue collected when people drop off material.

"So no tax revenue was used," said Jen Jordan, Iowa City's recycling coordinator. "It's all money that has come across the scale at the landfill and people throwing stuff away."

The new center joins five other drop-off recyclable facilities in Iowa City, but none were located close enough to cater to the East Side.

Jordan said showing people what can be done on a small scale is beneficial.

"[The center is] fewer than 2,000 square feet," she said. "It's really the size of an average home, and we have a little bit of solar, we have a little bit of wind energy, we have geothermal, but there is a little bit of everything going on at this site so people can see on a small scale what can be done to make a difference."

Local, sustainable, and energy-efficient building materials were a priority throughout the project, Hayek said.

"The materials that went into this is just incredible," Hayek said. "There is geothermal under the parking lot. We are using solar energy and daylighting to keep energy costs down. The whole thing is equipped with water and energy-efficient fixtures."

Jordan said the future looks promising.

"Environmental education — it really needs to permeate everything that we do," she said. "Because if we don't take care of the environment, nothing else is going to matter at some point."

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