Did you know that 15 percent of what goes into the Iowa City Landfill is food waste? That’s almost 18,000 tons of food each year, just in Johnson County. What a waste!

The City of Iowa City is working to reduce wasted food that ends up in the landfill. The commercial compost facility at the landfill can handle a lot of food waste, but it's best not to waste food in the first place. Wasted food means wasted resources. 

Food waste is a growing problem with profound financial and environmental impacts. When we throw away food, we also waste all the water and energy used to produce, package and transport food from farm to plate. According to the National Resources Defense Council: 

  • A typical American throws away around 20 pounds of food every month
  • That 20 pounds of wasted food is worth about $28-$43 
  • Twenty-five percent of all U.S. freshwater supplies go to produce food that gets wasted

You can help reduce and eliminate food waste. Click the links to learn more:

  1. Smart shopping: Buy what you need

  2. Smart storage: Keep fruits and vegetables fresh 

  3. Smart prep: Prep now, eat later

  4. Smart saving: Eat what you buy

Compost at the Curb Program

Curbside composting is available to residents who currently receive City of Iowa City garbage, recycling and yard waste services. It will be composted with yard waste at the commercial compost facility at the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. 
Composting 101 Video

How to participate 

UPDATE:  Based on residents' feedback, we’ve revised the container requirements for the new curbside food waste collection program.  Containers may range in size from 20 to 35 gallons and be upright like trash cans, not horizontal like recycling bins. 

Residents must have an annual yard waste sticker and supply their own container (20 to 35 gallons) that has a tight-fitting lid. A sticker is needed for each container and must weigh less than 50 lbs. 

The City is researching container options for residents who want to participate. 

Set your container out by 7 a.m. on your regular trash, recycling and yard waste collection day.  

Watch the Curbside Compost 101 video to learn more about the program and how to compost effectively. **Note the video specifies 35-gallon containers.  Please see the note above allowing containers ranging in size from 20 to 35 gallons.**

Yard Waste Stickers 

The current orange yard waste stickers will be accepted until March 31, 2017. 

New, purple yard waste stickers can be purchased for $12.50 and will be valid now – Dec. 29, 2017.

Stickers can be purchased in-person, by mail or by phone at City Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday. 

  • In-person: Visit City Hall at 410. E. Washington Street
  • By phone: Call 319-356-5066 to pay by Visa or MasterCard
  • By mail: Mail orders to Cashier at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St., Iowa City, Iowa 52402. Be sure to include the name, service address, mailing address and a $13 check to cover postage and a handling fee for each sticker

What can I compost? 
Food you can compost

  •  All fruits and vegetables matter: peelings, cores, etc
  • All grain products
  • Non-liquid dairy products (no milk), items cooked with milk and other dairy are acceptable 
  • Meat and seafood (raw or cooked, including bones and shells)
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Pizza and pizza boxes
  • Coffee grounds/filters, tea and tea bags
  • Leftovers, plate scrapings
  • Spoiled foods
  • Paper leftover containers from restaurants, but NOT plastic or foam containers
  • Uncoated paper that has been in contact with food: napkins, paper towels, pizza boxes, uncoated paper plates, uncoated paper cups
  • Small quantities of grease and fat (Do you have large quantities of frying grease? We’re working on getting a program in place to take this!)
  • Compostable service ware such as spoons, forks, plates, etc. that are certified ASTM D6400.

Not sure? Don’t compost it! 

What can't I compost? 

  • plastic or foam coated paper coffee cups or plates
  • plastic, Styrofoam, metal or glass
  • foil- or plastic-coated paper
  • waxed or coated paper (ie, grocery store meat wrapping paper)
  • cigarette butts and ashes
  • hazardous or medical waste
  • Saran wrap and cellophane
  • pet waste and litter
  • facial or toilet tissue

Helpful hints 
food waste brochure

  • Containers must be between 20 and 35 gallons and be upright like a trash can, not horizontal like a recycling bin. 
  • Residents are responsible for keeping containers clean. 
  • Wrapping food waste in newspaper may reduce mess within the container. 
  • If bags are used, they must be unlined paper or biodegradable, compostable bioplastic. If in doubt, use paper bags or newspaper.
  • Regular trash bags and single-use plastic bags are not compostable and will not be picked up. 
  • Keep it clean! Clean, non-contaminated food waste is turned into clean, high-quality compost.
  • If in doubt, throw it out!  Food waste contaminated with plastic, metal, glass or other garbage makes low-quality compost.  

Curbside composting program information can also be found in the City's food waste brochure. *please note, several updates have been made to the program since the last printing of the brochure.  The information on this web page is the most up-to-date.

Questions? Contact the Recycling Coordinator at 319-887-6160 or jennifer-jordan@iowa-city.org

REDUCE food waste: Food Too Good To Waste Strategies


1. Smart shopping: Buy what you need

  • Make a shopping list with the Meals-In-Mind Shopping List template based on how many meals you expect to eat at home before your next shopping trip.
  • Shop your fridge and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have.
  • Include number of meals and quantities on your shopping list to avoid overbuying.  For example: salad greens - enough for two lunches.
  • Buy fresh ingredients in smaller quantities more often.
  • Choose loose fruit and vegetables over pre-packaged produce.
  • Need help with meal planning and lists?  Try these free mobile apps and web-based tools to make it easier.

2. Smart storage: Keep fruits and vegetables fresh 

We waste fresh fruits and vegetable most often.  Reduce spoilage with proper storage techniques.

  • Separate very ripe fruit from fruit that isn’t as ripe. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other produce spoil faster.
  • Check out Eureka Recycling's A to Z Food Storage Tips to learn how to store almost any food. 
  • Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking sauces, pies or smoothies.
  • Use your freezer. If you can’t eat a food in time, you can often freeze it for later.

3. Smart prep: Prep now, eat later

  • When you get home from the farmers market, store or garden, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
  • Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the week. For example, bake and freeze chicken breasts or fry and freeze taco meat. See Preserving food: freezing prepared foods

4. Smart saving: Eat what you buy

Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.

  • Move food that’s likely to spoil soon to the front of a shelf or designated “eat now” area. Print out an Eat me first label to stick on a box or shelf.
  • Have leftovers? Store them in lunch-sized portions so they are ready to go the following morning or plan a leftover night each week.Make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan meals around it.
  • Casseroles, frittatas, soups and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers and odds and ends. These sites provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients:

Other resources

Table to Table is a local non-profit organization that rescues edible food and gets it to organizations in Iowa City which can use it.  Learn more or volunteer at http://www.table2table.org/

Many local restaurants and grocery stores are working to reduce food waste and compost their organics at the Iowa City Landfill’s commercial compost facility (www.icgov.org/commercialorganics). Over the past seven years, more than 850 tons of food waste organics have been diverted from the landfill and composted, and more restaurants and grocery stores are getting involved each year. Businesses are encouraged to check out the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge at https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc

Homes without curbside service from the City can hire a private service for pick-up. Check with your local waste haulers for more information and pricing

Compost at home:  Composting at home is a good way to deal with food scraps. Learn about backyard composting.


Contact Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jordan.