food and yard waste

Composting programs provided by the City of Iowa City/Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center are available to residents and businesses within Johnson County, Kalona, and Riverside. Materials from outside of this service area are not accepted. 

Iowa City residents that receive curbside services can place food and yard waste at the curb to be picked up and transported to the Landfill's Compost Facility. Any resident or business in 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 composting options and food waste reduction. 

Residential Curbside Composting 

Curbside Composting Guide (or view the Text-only Version)

Curbside composting for yard waste, food scraps, and other organic material is available to Iowa City residents living in single-family homes up to 4-unit apartment buildings ($3.50/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:

  • City organics carts: 95-gallon (weight limit of 250 pounds) or 25-gallon (weight limit of 50 pounds)
  • Paper yard waste bags: any brand (weight limit of 50 pounds)
  • Bundles: tree limbs or woody yard waste (specification requirements below)
    • 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 with natural twine or string (no plastic varieties allowed)
yard waste size and weight requirements

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

Food Scraps 

Coffee grounds, eggshells, meat bones, fruit and vegetable peels, pizza boxes, and other food items can be composted. View the Curbside Composting Guide (or view the text-only version) for more information. Food and yard waste can be combined in the same cart.

Food scraps can be placed in City organics carts:

  • 95-gallon (weight limit of 250 pounds), or 
  • 25-gallon (weight limit of 50 pounds)

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

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 Carts

Curbside customers in Iowa City can receive 25-gallon or 95-gallon carts for organics (food and yard waste) curbside collection by filling out a request form. Yard waste and food scraps can be added to the same container for pickup.  The first cart is included in the monthly $3.50 service fee.

Residents are allowed additional carts at a cost of $3.50 per month per cart to cover the cost of the cart and service. Carts will be delivered based on availability and staff time. Wait times vary.  Contact Resource Management at 319-356-5151 for more information.

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

Some customers may have received a second cart during the City’s initial delivery efforts. Effective July 1, 2021, these customers will be charged an additional $3.50 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 pickup. This pickup will be scheduled as soon as possible.

Sign up for a cart.

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.
  • 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 continues throughout the winter season with no suspension in service.

Tips to reduce organic material from freezing to your curbside cart:

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

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

Kitchen Food Scraps Containers 

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 City Hall (410 E. Washington St.) during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • A full list of accepted food materials may be found in the Curbside Composting Guide (or view the text-only version)
  • 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 cart.
  • To help keep this container clean, use newspaper, or ASTM D6400 or 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,

    Self-Hauling Organics to the Compost Facility

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

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