Change is coming to curbside organic waste collection in Iowa City

Celine Robins/Little Village

There will be a big change to Iowa City’s curbside collection of organic waste next month. Starting on July 1, residents who put out compostable materials for curbside collection “will be required to utilize a City-issued organics cart (25-gallons or 95-gallons, yellow lid), paper yard waste bags (for yard waste only), and/or bundles for collection,” the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center said in a news release.

The city began distributing the organics carts in 2018. The yellow-lidded carts come in two sizes: 25 gallons, which can hold up to 50 pounds of compostable material, or 95 gallons, which can hold up to 250 pounds. The 95-gallon cart has approximately the same size footprint as the city’s current 65-gallon trash cart.

Any Iowa City resident who has curbside garbage and recycling collection but doesn’t currently have an organics cart can get one by calling 319-356-5151 or filling out the request form available online.

There’s no charge for a cart, because the cost is covered by the $2 fee customers are already paying.

The organic material collected in curbside collection programs — including food and yard waste, as well as pizza boxes and uncoated paper plates (but not cigarette butts or pet waste) — is taken to the commercial composting facility at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center.

“We can take items that are a little bit harder to break down and don’t go into most backyard compost piles, like meat bones and egg shells, because we get our compost pile to a high enough temperature that everything like that breaks down just fine,” Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jane Wilch told Little Village when the carts first started rolling out.

“From start to finish, it’s about a year from when the product comes into the Iowa City Landfill to the final black soil compost is ready.”

The final product is sold to both companies and residents. Contractors buy it by the truckload for $20 a ton. People with more modest compost needs can get it by the bucketful at the East Side Recycling Center. There’s a minimum charge of $2 for compost. (Bring your own bucket and shovel for loads smaller than a truckload.)

If the new cart requirement leaves anyone with a now-unwanted container they used to use for organic waste, there will be an opportunity to recycle them later this month. Between noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 27, residents can bring their old containers to the recycling drop-off site at 1200 S Riverside Dr.

Containers between 25 gallons and 35 gallons will be accepted at the drive-through-style event. There’s no charge to drop off the containers, but they must be empty.

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