CEDAR RAPIDS — Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn accepted the invitation to speak to the local Solid Waste Agency and then didn’t blink on Tuesday when he spelled out Marion’s plans to use garbage the agency now considers its own.
Pluckhahn explained that Marion now is working with two firms — one wants to turn garbage into ethanol and the other wants to turn it into energy and insulation — that would direct much of the garbage to a Marion industrial site that now goes to the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency’s Site 2 landfill on Marion’s border at County Home Road and Highway 13.
The businesses’ plans, if one or both come to pass, will impact the Solid Waste Agency because the agency depends on the revenue from the garage it takes in to support recycling, other waste diversion programs and community education efforts and to operate the Site 2 landfill. The agency’s revenue also is needed at its Site 1 landfill, known as Mount Trashmore, which is in the process of being closed and will need to be managed for years.
Karmin McShane, the agency’s executive director, told the agency board on Tuesday that the agency likely would need to raise its prices and/or cut services if much of its revenue is lost to a nearby solid-waste operation inside the city of Marion.
Nearly every jurisdiction in Linn County has signed and abides by a joint 28-E Agreement that spells out that the communities will steer their garbage to the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. The multijurisdictional agency then decides what to divert and what to put in the landfill.
However, Pluckhahn told the board that Iowa state law spells out that recycling is a better approach to the handling of garbage and that placing garbage in a landfill should be the last choice. As a result, Marion “feels compelled” to make a commitment to companies that approach the city with plans to do something with garbage other than put it in a landfill.
Pluckhahn noted that Marion has been working with Florida firm Plasma Power for four years now in an effort to get the company to build a plasma arc plant in Marion that would zap garbage into energy and leave behind an “encapsulated glass” material that can be turned into insulation.
However, he said that a second company, Fiberight LLC, now plans to build a garbage-sorting operation in Marion where it will separate organic material from garbage that it will convert to ethanol at its plant in Blairstown.
Pluckhahn said Marion envisions an eco-industrial park on ground at the city’s Public Service Department on 35th Street where the Fiberight sorting operation likely will be built and where the Plasma Power plant might be built next door.
He said Fiberight will not be able to use all the garbage, but the idea is that Plasma Power could zap what Fiberight doesn’t use. At the same time, he said some of the garbage likely will need to continue to be landfilled.
Fiberight, he added, might be ready to start construction on a facility in Marion yet this year.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, a Solid Waste Agency board member, pointed out to Pluckhahn that the agency has spent significant money to open new cells at the Site 2 landfill and is spending considerable money to close Site 1 and to build a new Resource Recovery Center of its own.
The agency might not have spent the money had it known Marion’s plans, Corbett said.
In the past, Corbett said he didn’t understand if taxpayers would understand why Marion is planning to have another resource recovery center built a few miles away from the new one going up at the Site 1 landfill.
The agency’s McShane said Fiberight had been exploring placing its sorting operation at the Site 2 landfill, but decided to work with the city of Marion instead.