Iowa City recycling up 20 percent

BY KEVIN SVEC | JANUARY 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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After introducing one new initiative to the many of Iowa City, recycled material increased by nearly 20 percent in the last year — more than 121 tons.

These sustainable efforts are bringing applause from Iowa City officials for the city’s sustainable efforts, making Iowa City a leader in environmentalism.

“We’ve done a lot,” Iowa City City Councilor Susan Mims said. “We are way ahead [of some other cities] on sustainability.”

Brenda Nations, the city’s environment coordinator, said one of the biggest initiatives contributing to the increase is the inclusion of recycling in multi-housing developments.

While the city code requires trash service, it does not require landlords to provide recycling services to their tenants. The city doesn’t provide recycling services if a complex has more than four units. To combat this, the recycling officials in Iowa City have been working to educate tenants and residents that recycling is an affordable costing around $3 per month per unit.

The city encourages tenants to use the drop-off bins and eventually talking with landlords about hiring the recycling service to further the city’s campaign.

However, recycling in multi-housing developments is not the only contributing factor.

The increase also stemmed from the success of the drop-off program in Iowa City, said Iowa City recycling coordinator Jenn Jordan.

After instituting an recycling coordinator between 2006 and 2007, the program drew more attention. Since then, the recycling totals have steadily increased, with last year being the most successful thus far.

The recycling drop-off site program is funded by the sale of materials to City Carton Recycling, Iowa City’s recycling contractor.

Jordan said the aim of the project wasn’t to just divert waste from the landfills but to keep resources viable for use.

“Using an item once and tossing it in a landfill is a waste of raw materials, process energy and labor used to make the item,” she said. “Recycling retains that value as well as avoids the landfill.”

Officials said the increase aligns with Iowa City’s sustainability goals. While the city has previously focused on environmental issues and solutions, the recycling statistics are just a piece of the sustainability puzzle. City officials are pushing the issues by enacting policies of their own.

“Recycling has been really important in the city and continues to be,” Mims said. “[We are planning to] put in LED streetlights … that will reduce our electric costs significantly.”

Councilor Jim Throgmorton said city officials can’t control all aspects of recycling, but they will do what they can.

“A key thing is reducing the amount of stuff that goes into a landfill,” he said. “We can’t control what the economy produces.

With last year’s success, Mayor Matt Hayek said it adequately demonstrates Iowa City’s sustainability efforts.

“It shows we’re making progress,” he said. “The more we can engage our community in recycling on a regular basis, the better.”

DI reporter Daniel Seidl contributed to this report.

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