The various successes of Iowa City recycling

Iowa City unrolled a new recycling program in 2018 | Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Iowa City’s recycling program has proven so successful that workers will continue to collect on the 4th of July, instead of catching up the next day. Collection workers will get holiday pay with this new arrangement.

Iowa City uses single-stream recycling. Residents don’t have to sort through and categorize recyclable goods, and are instead instructed to leave everything in one container, save for a few items that need to be taken to one of the city’s many drop-off centers, like glass or shredded paper.

Recycling rates in the city have jumped by 30% since the implementation of the new recycling program back in December 2018. Larger curbside bins allow collection workers to make fewer stops and trips, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the program. The addition of compost bins campus-wide have also proven to be popular.

There is no national regulation for recycling, and programs are different state to state. Even different towns in Northern Iowa have various approaches to waste management. Some places require residents to separate and sort their recycling, while others take mixed items. The policies can be difficult for people to follow.

Educating people on waste management and making the recycling process easier and more accessible has proved beneficial for Iowa City. So successful, in fact, that collection workers are working weekday holidays to keep the flow from backing up. Overall, it’s a very positive conundrum.

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