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Overton: Landfill recycling

BY JON OVERTON | FEBRUARY 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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The landfill is a joyous wonderland for children and parents to visit, far surpassing the magic of Disney World — or at least that’s how I recall it as of age 8. Shoving collapsing green chairs and throwing a broken blender among other things from the back of a pickup into a mound of trash the day before Thanksgiving became a highly anticipated yearly ritual.

That’s one of the reasons I’m concerned about the Iowa City Landfill.

A 2011 report by Mid Atlantic Solid Waste Consultants found that about 75 percent of the Iowa City landfill’s waste is made up of paper, plastic, and organic materials, most of which could be recycled or composted. Furthermore, curbside recycling is unavailable to multiple-family homes and apartment buildings with more than four units. With nearly a 49 percent homeownership rate, that excludes quite a few people. To make greater headway in reducing unnecessary waste, Iowa City needs to expand access to curbside recycling.

Because the city doesn’t cover them, businesses, houses with more than one family and apartment buildings with more than four units must pay private companies to take their recycled materials or take their recyclables to designated centers.

Let’s be realistic. People are busy and don’t like inconveniences. For the most part, only the most gung-ho, hyper environmentalists will go out of the way to drop off materials at recycling centers, compost their organic waste, or pay private haulers to take their recycling. While the Iowa City area does have a relatively large concentration of those (woo-hoo), much of the waste we could otherwise recycle still ends up in the landfill. The solution is to make recycling easier.

Problem is, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will need to find a new revenue stream since it charges landfills based on how much waste they received to fund the state recycling program. Tossing garbage is cheaper than recycling it, but over time, the cost of using landfills will become more expensive because they will have to expand or ship waste elsewhere.

It’s about more than saving the planet. It’s about preserving our landfills as they are for future generations of children who use these sites for frolic and merriment.


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