By Joe Horaney
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs — IowaWatch investigation about declining recycling numbers statewide, featured in The Gazette on Feb. 3 (“Iowa recycling losing round”), raised several important issues.
Much of what is being thrown away could be recycled, up to 75 percent. Food scraps, for example, are a large portion of the waste stream. A waste-sort study commissioned by the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency in October 2010 revealed that organics make up more than 20 percent of Linn County materials being landfilled. Across Iowa, landfills are filling up.
So what can be done? Plenty.
Organizations such as the Solid Waste Agency are working to make recycling as easy and affordable as possible. In Linn County, the agency pays for processing curbside recyclables collected in Cedar Rapids, Marion and the other 15 county communities. For those that do not have curbside services available, the agency provides drop-offs at its two locations: 1954 County Home Road, Marion and 2250 A Street SW, Cedar Rapids. Marion residents can use their city drop-off at 195 35th Street. City Carton Recycling, Inc. also has a 24-hour recycling drop-off location at 901 Ingleside Drive SW, Cedar Rapids, available to everyone.
Making a difference with recycling now goes beyond the blue bin. In addition to paper, plastic, cardboard and glass, Linn County residents can recycle electronics, including old televisions, computer monitors and equipment. The agency subsidizes electronics recycling to preserve landfill space and recover valuable resources. Other items that residents can recycle for no charge include household and car batteries, fluorescent bulbs, medical sharps, plastic bags/plastic wrap, and scrap metal. Household hazardous materials such as old paint, stains, chemicals and cleaning supplies are also accepted for no charge.
For reasonable fees, carpet, asphalt shingles, appliances, tires and wood products can also be recycled.
The Corridor is fortunate to have businesses committed to recycling. Large employers such as Rockwell Collins, General Mills, Quaker Oats, Yellowbook and others have active “green teams” that do more than preach sustainability; they live it each day. Small businesses such as Marion Tire and Overhead Door Company of Cedar Rapids & Iowa City are nearly zero-waste operations thanks to dedicated recycling and reuse efforts.
Business recycling results are not publicly tracked, but commercial recycling has a huge impact and diverts tons of material from the landfill.
There are ways to cut down on food waste. More and more people have home composting bins. The city of Cedar Rapids allows produce to be placed in its green Yardy carts along with yard waste. Each week, haulers deliver food scraps collected at Mount Mercy University, NewBo City Market, Coe College, Mercy Medical Center and Walmart to the Solid Waste Agency’s compost facility instead of the landfill.
The Solid Waste Agency cannot force anyone to recycle. The agency does not create the garbage, but it is doing everything possible to make recycling easy, convenient, and affordable. Take advantage, Linn County!
Joe Horaney is Communications Director/Certified Landfill Operator at Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency and is an Iowa Recycling Association board member. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org