organic materials such as leaves, grass, and food waste

Please note: beginning July 1, 2021, City of Iowa City curbside organics (food waste + yard waste) collection program will no longer accept personal 20-35 gallon containers. Customers will be required to utilize a City-issued organics cart (25-gallons or 95-gallons, yellow lid), paper yard waste bags, and/or bundles for collection.  Please see the news release for more information. 

The City transitioned to carts for trash 20 years ago; the transition to recycling and organics carts began three years ago. The carts improve operational efficiencies and increase staff safety for all curbside collections. Carts are lifted by a mechanical arm on the truck, significantly reducing shoulder injuries that can occur from lifting containers manually. 

If you do not already have a cart, you can sign-up at www.icgov.org/organics or call 319-356-5151 to obtain one. Customers will not see an additional charge on their bill for this cart, as it is included in the $2 per month fee charged to all customers.

Several options for available for residents and businesses in Johnson County to compost food and yard waste. 

Iowa City residents that receive curbside services can place food and yard waste in the same container at the curb to be picked up and transported to the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility, where it is made into compost.

Alternatively, any resident or business within Johnson County can transport food and yard waste directly to the Compost Facility. Note: Open burning of yard waste and other refuse is prohibited in Iowa City.

On this web page, learn more about Iowa City's curbside composting, other composting options in our community, and how to reduce food waste. 


Curbside Carts
organic carts for curbside collection

Curbside customers in Iowa City can receive 25-gallon or 95-gallon carts for organics (food waste and yard waste) curbside collection. Yard waste and food waste can be added to the same container for pickup.  The first cart is included in the monthly $2 service fee.

Residents are allowed additional City-provided carts (25- or 95-gallons) at a cost of $2 per month per cart to cover the cost of the cart and service. Those who do not currently have a City-issued cart will be given priority for delivery through the end of March 2021.  Additional carts will be delivered based on cart availability.

If a customer determines that an additional cart that they had ordered is no longer needed, a pick-up can be scheduled for January of the following year. The monthly cart fee will continue to be charged until that time.  

Carts will be delivered based on availability and staff time. Wait times vary.  Contact Resource Management at 319-356-5151 for more information.

Some customers may have received a second cart during the City’s initial delivery efforts. Beginning July 1, 2021, these customers will be charged an additional $2 per month for the second cart. If the additional carts are no longer needed, please contact customer service at 319-356-5151 to schedule a pick-up. This pick-up will be scheduled as soon as possible.

Please sign up for a cart here. 

Residential Curbside Composting 

Curbside Composting Guide

Curbside composting is available to Iowa City residents living in single-family homes up to 4-unit apartment buildings ($2/month on utility bill). 

To find out which weekday your address receives curbside collection, view the map. 

Yard Waste 

Grass, leaves, garden residue, and woody yard waste can be placed in:

  • Paper yard waste bags, any brand (weight limit of 50 pounds)
  • Personal, upright 20-35 gallons container (weight limit of 50 pounds)
    • Please note: beginning July 1, 2021, City of Iowa City curbside organics (food waste + yard waste) collection program will no longer accept personal 20-35 gallon containers.
  • City of Iowa City organics carts: 95-gallon (weight limit of 250 pounds) or 25-gallon (weight limit of 50 pounds)
  • Bundles (requirements below)

Curbside customers may place tree limbs, branches, and woody yard waste at the curb following these specifications:

  • Individual pieces (in bundle or container):
    • 4 inches maximum diameter
    • 48 inches maximum length
  • Bundles:
    • 18 inches maximum diameter
    • 48 inches maximum length
    • 50 pounds weight limit per bundle
    • Securely tie each bundle
yard waste bundles size and weight requirements

Any brush not meeting the specifications listed above will be left at the curb.

Food Waste 

Coffee grounds, eggshells, meat bones, fruit and vegetable peels, pizza boxes, and other food items can be composted. View the Organics: Yard Waste and Food Waste handout for more information. Food and yard waste can be combined in the same container.

Food waste can be placed in:

  • Personal, upright 20-35 gallons container (weight limit of 50 pounds)
    • Please note: beginning July 1, 2021, City of Iowa City curbside organics (food waste + yard waste) collection program will no longer accept personal 20-35 gallon containers.
  • City of Iowa City organics carts: 95-gallon (weight limit of 250 pounds) or 25-gallon (weight limit of 50 pounds)

Do not place food waste in paper yard waste bags. To reduce mess, you may place food waste in newspaper or certified-compostable bags (labeled ASTM D6400 or certified-compostable) before placing food waste in curbside containers. 

Other Organic Waste

  • Shredded Paper and Paper Towels/Napkins are accepted in curbside composting and at the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility.
  • Pumpkins and Gourds are accepted in curbside composting and at the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility. Remove any candles or lights from inside your pumpkins before composting. 
  • Natural, Unflocked Holiday Trees are accepted in curbside composting and at the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility. Remove all decorations first and do not place your tree in a plastic bag.
  • Garlic Mustard is accepted in curbside composting and at the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility. Garlic Mustard is accepted at our facility because the compost reaches a high enough temperature. We do not recommend adding Garlic Mustard and other invasive species to a backyard compost pile. 
  • Pet Waste, while organic, is not accepted in curbside composting or at the Iowa City Landfill's Compost Facility. Please place pet waste in the regular trash. 

Curbside Customer Best Practices

Follow these guidelines to ensure successful and safe curbside collection. 

  • Place carts on a solid surface for pickup, such as the end of your driveway, or when snow is present, a cleared area of flat ground. Do not place carts on top of snowbanks. 
  • Do not overfill carts. City ordinance states the lids must be closed.
  • Bag all trash. Keep all recycling materials loose.
  • Place carts at curb by 7 a.m. on your curbside day.
  • Keep at least 3-feet clear zone around each cart.
  • Face the arrows on cart lids to street.
  • Return carts to your storage area at end of curbside day.
  • Do not paint/write on carts.
  • Do not remove the carts from home.
  • Put carts at the curb only when full. 

Wintertime Collection Tips

Curbside collection of organics will continue throughout the winter season with no suspension in service.

Here are some tips to reduce organic material from freezing to your curbside container:

  • Wait to put your organics container at the curb until 7 a.m. on your curbside collection day (if container is regularly stored indoors).
  • Line your container with cardboard or newspaper before placing wet yard waste or food waste in container.
  • Place food waste in paper bags or ASTM D6400-certified compostable bags before placing in container.
  • Place food waste in freezer to preserve material. You can place frozen food waste in container for your curbside collection day, or keep it frozen until temperatures warm up.

If you keep your container outdoors and regularly add food waste (or yard waste such as wet leaves) to it, the material may freeze to the container. This can cause the materials to not empty from the container during curbside pickup. Material will thaw and loosen from container when temperatures warm up again.


Kitchen Food Scraps Containers 

(currently unavailable due to facility closures)

Iowa City curbside customers that would like a 2-gallon kitchen food scraps container can pick one up at the City Hall Cashier office in Iowa City City Hall (410 E. Washington St.) during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Important things to note:

  • A full list of accepted food waste materials may be found in our Organics: Yard Waste and Food Waste handout. 
  • These containers are not to be put at the curb. This container is for kitchen collection only. Materials collected can be emptied into your organics curbside container.
  • To help keep this container clean, use newspaper, or ASTM D6400 or U.S. Composting Council certified-compostable bags to contain the food scraps.

At-Home Composting

Several options exist for residents wanting to compost at home. Residents can start a backyard compost pile, or for an indoor option, composting with worms is possible. Resources and more information for both of these methods are below. 


Business Composting

Businesses are encouraged to check out the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge for information on food waste reduction and rescue. 

Organics hauling options for businesses: 


Food Waste Reduction

Did you know that over 25 percent of what goes into the Iowa City Landfill is food waste? That’s approximately 34,000 tons of food each year, just in Johnson County. 

When food waste ends up in the landfill, it produces a harmful greenhouse gas called methane that is over 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide. This can impact local air quality and climate change. Composting is a better alternative to landfilling, but it is best not to waste food in the first place.

When we throw away food, we also waste all the water, energy, and natural resources used to produce, package, and transport food from farm to plate. In addition, wasted food means wasted money.

The following Food: Too Good To Waste strategies can help you reduce food waste:

For recipes, food storage and planning tips, and more, check out Save the Food

Are you a restaurant wanting to reduce food waste? Check out the ReFed Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide

Have food that could be donated?

Table to Table is a local non-profit organization that rescues edible food and delivers it to organizations in Iowa City that can use it. Learn more about the organization and how to volunteer by visiting, www.table2table.org.


    Self-Hauling Organics to the Compost Facility

    For information on self-hauling organics, food and yard waste, to the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, visit our Landfill and Recycling Centers page.


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