Officials address lack of recycling at Iowa City apartments


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City officials say there is a need in Iowa City for more recycling — with the greatest need stemming from apartment complexes.

Currently, Iowa City does not offer curbside pickup of recycling for multi-family homes and apartment complexes with more than four units. If an apartment building would like to offer a recycling service to its residents, it has to pay a company to pick up the recycling.

Of the 1,030 apartment complexes in Iowa City, 37 have pickup service. This translates to roughly 3.5 percent.

Jennifer Jordan, the recycling coordinator for the city, said this is an issue that needs to be alleviated.

“It’s a major issue,” Jordan said. “If you aren’t a single-family home, then the city does not have a responsibility [to pick up recycling]. The No. 1 question I have gotten over the past six years is how to fix this problem.”

Jordan and the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center conducted a study that looked at the issue of recycling in apartments. The study was conducted between January and October 2012. The findings showed that although recycling would cost the residents of the complexes a small fee, 60 percent of people would support paying the fine.

Michael’s Apartments, an apartment complex in Iowa City, does not offer a recycling program; it advises its residents to take the recycling to a drop-off point.

Some apartment complexes may be deterred by the idea of hiring a company to remove recycling. The cost is an average of $2.57 a month per unit in an apartment complex, and the residents of the apartment would most likely end up paying the fee. The recycling fee would be smaller than the fee to have curbside trash waste picked up — at an average of $4.10 per month.

Jordan said even if a person is not necessarily concerned with the effect recycling has on the environment, economically, recycling makes sense.

“Seventy-five percent of what goes into our landfill is recyclable or compostable,” she said. “That’s half a million dollars. With the economics [of recycling], it makes so much more sense to recycle. You’re paying to throw away something that can be reused.”

Some believe that the University of Iowa has made greater strides than the city has.

UI officials have made an effort to improve its recycling efforts over the past few years, with residence halls being a key place for recycling.

“I can tell you that the residence halls have a good recycling and trash design, with consistent trash and recycling rooms on every floor and a recycling bin in every room,” said Eric Holthaus, the recycling coordinator for the UI. “There are good successes in the residence halls, with some halls achieving 40 percent recycling rates. In the residence halls and throughout campus, education about our single-stream recycling system and our 60 percent waste diversion goal is critical — and everyone can contribute.”

Despite the efforts, one UI professor said it may be unlikely that the university will reach its goal of 60 percent sustainability in 2020.

“It’s taken a long time to get where we are, and we seem to fall short in my opinion,” said Jeff Dorale, an associate professor of geoscience. “Yes, [the UI] is getting better, but the question is, is it getting better fast enough. 2020 is seven years down the road. Is that moving fast enough?”

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