Those little blue recycling bins that dot the curbs of Iowa City’s residential neighborhoods are convenient, freely provided (to single-family homes) and offer residents a simple, environmentally-friendly alternative to the trash bin.
And yet, one particular point of frustration remains: no glass allowed! Fortunately, curbside recyclers can now breath easy thanks to Evan Hartley, who earlier this year launched Iowa City Glass, a door-side recycling program that promises to, you guessed it, accept glass.
Hartley, a language arts teacher at Iowa City’s South East Junior High School, launched Iowa City Glass’s official website over winter break, allowing residents to sign up for monthly or bi-weekly pick-up for $6 and $9, respectively. Once signed up, a receptacle will be left at the resident’s door. On pick-up days, Iowa City Glass will swap out the receptacle and take it to a drop-off recycling location on the resident’s behalf.
The service might seem unremarkable to some, but for those who have long begrudged the lack of curbside glass recycling in Iowa City and don’t have the means (or time) to take advantage of our area drop-off services, Iowa City Glass is practically a godsend.
Hartley says he’s always wanted to start his own business, and hearing friends complain about the limited glass recycling options in Iowa City helped push him in the right direction.
“I started thinking about it maybe two years ago — I sort of dwelled on it,” Hartley said.
The idea seemed unfeasible at first, Hartley admits. Plastic bins are expensive and present all sorts of liability issues when placed next to a curb, he says.
“I guess the big shift came when I discovered RecycleMe in Des Moines, and I saw that they used canvas bags,” he said. “The bags are a lot cheaper, so my start-up costs would be small. Once I made that realization, I discovered it wouldn’t cost that much to just buy some bags and give it a shot.”
Hartley’s service accepts more than just glass, however.
“My goal is to supplement the city recycling program so that whatever people can’t put in the blue bin, we’ll pick up, so that people can eliminate their need to go to the recycling center altogether,” Hartley said, mentioning items like books, food cartons and plastic sacks. “For people who are short on time, I think it makes sense.”
Residents have long been able to recycle items such as these through the city’s various drop-off services like City Carton and the East Side Recycling Center, though Hartley sees his pick-up service as more of a niche operation — something to exist alongside existing institutions.
“City Carton’s been great,” Hartley said. “They let me come down and I talked to them about what I would do with larger amounts of glass, and they’ve been nothing but supportive. [Recycling Coordinator] Jennifer Jordan at the Iowa City Landfill has also been super supportive.”
Participants in Iowa City Glass can also leave beer and soda cans for pick-up. Hartley says money made from can deposits will be issued to a local charity organization, though details are still in flux.
“It just seems like an easy way to give back,” he said.
Iowa City Glass is not available to apartment buildings at this time, though Hartley says he’s “working on getting an apartment program going.”
The project has mostly been a collaboration between Hartley and his spouse, Erin Foster Hartley, though several others have offered to join up should the workload get out of hand, he says. To transport the recyclables, Hartley hooks a trailer to the back of his car, and he’s currently working on grants to secure a more spacious cargo vehicle.
“My one concern is that very few people will sign up, and my other concern is that way too many people will sign up,” Hartley said, laughing. “I hope that by starting small, I can work out the kinks.”