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North Liberty pilots curbside compost program

BY MITCH MCANDREW | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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This week, North Liberty will pilot a new curbside composting program that will pick up compostable items alongside trash and recycling every Wednesday, a service that surrounding municipalities have yet to offer.

It will first be tested on seven households, with community-wide participation expected to begin next month.

The implementation is the brainchild of Johnson County Refuse, North Liberty’s contracted waste hauler. The company has composting programs for the University of Iowa and several Iowa City-area restaurants and schools.

North Liberty marks the company’s first residential trial for curbside composting, said Johnson County Refuse owner Steve Smith.

“Because we’re based in North Liberty, it was the best option for us to try this out …  residentially,” he said.

Being at the forefront of such an experiment is not a rare occurrence for North Liberty, said Assistant City Administrator Tracey Mulcahey, who is also among the first seven households to participate in the program.

“We’re known for being ahead of the curve for our size,” she said.

This attitude was evident to Smith, who said the city was very receptive to the compost idea and that there was keen interest among the residents for going green.

North Liberty demonstrated this interest by responding in mass to the announcement of the program.

“Shortly after we did the press release, we had about 25 more people call in trying to participate,” said Nick Bergus, communications director for the city of North Liberty.

Smith’s company is among the greenest in Iowa; its recycling programs span almost 20 years.

“This composting is kind of the next step to that recycling,” he said.

Bergus said although composting may be a step up from recycling, the curbside aspect makes it much easier for residents.

Mulcahey also said it would be more convenient for participants.

“The omission of the actual process of composting makes it ultra-simple for residents,” she said. “I don’t consider myself a die-hard green person, but this is completely doable. All we as residents have to do is collect.”

Guidelines on what qualifies as compostable can be obtained from the city upon signing up for the program or through the Iowa City Landfill, where Johnson County Refuse hauls its loads.

The compost product these scraps generate will be available at the landfill for $20 per load.

On top of being environmentally responsible, officials hope the program will also save residents money.

“There is a small deposit for the compost bin itself, provided by Johnson County Refuse, and the waste bags are $1.65 each,” Mulcahey said.

Bergus said there won’t be additional taxes for residence because the program is free from user fees.
While composting programs such as this are not yet common in the Iowa City area, they are also not unheard of.

Several years ago, the city of Iowa City received a grant from the EPA and piloted a compost program, Mulcahey said. However, it never grew out of the study, and nothing was ever implemented.

Statewide, the first compost program was enacted in Dubuque approximately seven years ago, and it has since seen commendable success, maintaining a 25 percent recycling rate, according to the city’s official website.

“This is new for [Johnson County Refuse], and new for [the city of North Liberty],” Smith said. “But regardless of the results of this pilot, as long as there are people interested [in composting], we’ll provide the service.”


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