Composting program hits it big


A project started by the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center started off gathering 30 tons of food waste to be composted, and it has since upped its numbers to composting 400 tons of food waste in 2014.

Since 2007, the Landfill has been taking in food and yard waste in order to compost them into fertilizer rather than let it sit in the Landfill.

The project takes in food from local grocery stores, restaurants, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the Burge and Hillcrest dining halls.

Jennifer Jordan, the city recycling coordinator, said a big portion of what goes into Iowa landfills is food waste which could have been composted.

The last landfill Iowa City dug cost $7 million.

“We’re filling 14 percent of it with food,” Jordan said. “It’s silly. Environmentally, it makes no sense …”

Jordan had been working to make the food waste into something more useful and less harmful, she said.

“The food and yard waste are not getting thrown away,” she said. “They’re getting ground up.”

In order for the food and yard waste to be composted, bacteria and microbes have to eat the organic material. Once all the organic material has been eaten, what’s left of the matter is compost, which essentially acts as vitamins for the dirt.

“We sell it as fertilizer,” Jordan said. “It’s $20 a ton, and we sell it to businesses and residents in Johnson County. I use it on my garden, and I can tell you it’s great.”

Not only does the composting project aim to reduce greenhouse gases by avoiding filling landfills with food, it also encourages Iowa residents to watch the amount of food they waste, Jordan said.

Bob Andrlik, the executive director of Table to Table, supports Jordan’s efforts.

Table to Table is an organization that collects food that hasn’t been used from grocery stores and restaurants in order to donate it to other agencies that need the food.

“If you can [keep] food out of the landfill, you can help the environment,” Andrlik said. “[Some] advantages we see are making sure food doesn’t go into the waste stream.”

Thomas Connelly, the owner of the Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St., also supports Jordan’s project by giving her any food his restaurant has not used in order for it to be composted.

Connelly has participated in Jordan’s project for two years.

After capturing about 40 percent of the restaurant’s solid waste and sending it to the compost keep at the city dump, the food then successfully gets composted.

“It works beautifully,” Connelly said. “It’s a little more work for us, but we’re happy to do it. I think it’s important that people and businesses participate in helping out the world.”

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