The Iowa City City Council has approved several proposed changes that will expand the city's current recycling program.

This includes the addition of multifamily units, like apartments, and curbside food waste collection. The final reading of these changes to the City Code was unanimously approved by City Council at its meeting on November 1, 2016. 

​1. Multifamily recycling mandate 

The City serves about 15,300 households (single family homes up to four-unit dwelling) with weekly curbside solid waste, recycling and yard waste collection service. Owners and managers of apartments and condominiums with five or more units are currently required by City Code to provide trash removal services, which is generally contracted to a private waste hauler.

The updates require landlords and property managers of dwellings in excess of four units to provide recycling in order to receive a rental permit. The enforcement mechanism would mirror existing solid waste requirements and would allow landlords and property managers until their next rental permit renewal to comply. Staff is aware that exceptions may be necessary for a small number of properties that cannot comply with the proposed code due to lack of space.

Over the next two years, as the City allow landlords and property managers to come into compliance, the proposed code change would extend recycling to more than 10,000 additional households in Iowa City that are not currently offered the option of onsite recycling services. Recycling services would presumably be made available through private haulers. Haulers will also benefit with the two year phase in period by allowing them to ramp up service levels over the next two years to accommodate the increased service. 

Estimated annual landfill diversion: 1,700 tons

2. Curbside collection of food waste 

The proposed code update includes food waste be included with the existing yard waste collection. Residents who wish to participate would be required to purchase a $25 annual yard waste sticker for use on a self-provided container with a lid; containers would have to hold no less than five gallons and no more than 35 gallons and be limited to 50 pounds, as is the case with the current yard waste collection program. 

As the program evolves, consideration will be given to carts similar to the current City carts for trash. The food waste and yard waste collected is then composted at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center as a part of normal daily operations.    

Estimated annual landfill diversion: 500 to 1,000 tons per year

3. Television and computer monitor ban in the landfill; TVs and monitors can still be recycled at landfill or East Side 

The Iowa City Landfill began recycling electronic waste in 2003. Over the years, despite the fact that electronics have become smaller and lighter, tonnage has increased.  Approximately 375 tons of computer monitors and televisions are deposited in the landfill each year.  While this is not a large portion, it is important to recycle monitors and televisions to reduce the extraction and production of materials upstream, reduce the amount of hazardous and toxic substances in the landfill and decrease future environmental liability.

The code update includes a ban on landfilling computer monitors and televisions. Computer monitors and televisions may be recycled at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center or at the East Side Recycling Center.  Click here for fees and hours of operations for both recycling locations. 

Estimated annual landfill diversion: 340 to 360 tons per year.

4. Covered or secured load requirement

Blowing litter is a major issue in our community, especially on the route to the landfill and at the landfill site itself.

There are many negative impacts that litter has including complying with Iowa DNR regulations, aesthetics, water quality and environmental safety for neighboring farm animals and wildlife.  In addition, the landfill spends approximately $35,000 annually to clean up wind-blown litter.

While many commercial waste haulers cover their loads to reduce littering on the way to the landfill, many landfill customers do not cover their loads of trash, which contributes to the litter issue. Multiple landfills in Iowa have a covered or secured load policy that requires all vehicles to have covered their loads of trash headed to the landfill or secured any bulky items that are being transported for disposal. If a vehicle arrives without a cover such as a tarp on the load of trash, there will be an additional fee at the scale.

This change in policy would have a positive financial impact on our financial operations as we would anticipate being able to reduce the funds we have to dedicate to litter clean-up. In addition, the reduction in litter would benefit those neighbors that live and /or work in the area.

Summary of proposed changes

The proposed code changes outlined above could collectively divert 2,600 to 3,200 tons of resources from the Iowa City Landfill annually at little cost to the City. No significant operational changes are anticipated this budget cycle. Staff is evaluating fee structures as a part of the upcoming operational budget process.  Any proposed changes in fees will come back to City Council through that process.