Recycling rates in Iowa City increase by 30 percent

Recycling rates in Iowa City are up 30 percent since this time last year. The increase in recycling is the result of the city’s new recycling carts and education efforts.


Katina Zentz

New recycling bins are seen in the UI Office of Sustainability on July 2, 2018. The Public Space Recycling Bin grant from Coca-Cola North America and the Keep America Beautiful foundation provided the office with 500 new recycling bins to be placed around campus.

Rachel Steil, News Reporter

Recycling rates in Iowa City have jumped as residents are provided with an easier and more efficient recycling program.

According to a report from the city, recycling tonnage in Iowa City has increased by 30 percent since March 2018. The growth in recycling rates has been attributed to the new recycling carts rolled out by the city in December 2018.

The new recycling carts were issued in order to address two main issues: capacity and safety, said Patricia Fossum, assistant superintendent — refuse.

“The carts are easier to use than the former 18-gallon bins, because they can hold a lot more material, which we believe has encouraged more recycling,” Iowa City recycling coordinator Jane Wilch said.

The new carts are having an environmental impact beyond waste reduction. The larger carts allow Iowa City residents to recycle more materials at a time, she said.

“This means fewer truck stops, reducing fuel use, and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which contributes to the city’s climate-action goals,” Wilch said.

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Over the past few months, the city has worked on updating curbside recycling routes to increase efficiency and decrease emissions, she said.

The new carts are not only larger, they also have wheels. Wilch said the wheels reduce lifting at the curbside.

The new carts are also able to be picked up by recycling trucks, Fossum said. Less bending and lifting means fewer employee injuries.

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Another factor credited with sparking the increase in recycling is the educational information provided with the new carts. Iowa City residents were able to learn what the recycling program entails, Fossum said.

“Education increases participation,” she said. 

UI Environmental Coalition Co-President Emily Manders, said the group is aware of the city’s increased recycling rates, and it’s great that the community is becoming more aware of proper waste disposal.

She said there are two main steps to recycling waste properly.

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“The most important thing to do is reduce the amount of waste being produced,” Manders said. “The next most important thing is sorting waste correctly. This means not only putting the correct items in the landfill, recycling, and compost bins on campus, but also making sure that the items being placed in the recycling are clean of food waste and liquids.”

Throughout the month of April, members of the coalition helped people in the IMU sort their waste correctly. The project is aimed at preventing the contamination of recycling and compost, Manders said.

Wilch noted the importance of proper recycling procedures.

“Reducing contamination in recycling is key,” she said. “This means rinsing containers and making sure we are only placing accepted items in the recycling bin.”

Whether recycling rates will continue to increase is uncertain, she said.

“The increased rates we have seen are very encouraging,” Wilch said. “I am not sure what kind of continued growth we will see, but we will continue to monitor progress.”