Iowa City recognized for participation in food waste study

Composting is one way to reduce food waste. (szczel/Flickr)
Composting keeps food waste out of landfills and re-purposes it for fertilizer and other uses. (szczel/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | December 2, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Iowa City for its participation in a food waste study.

The 6-week study examined 50 households and asked volunteers to weigh and record their daily food waste. Participants were encouraged to practice four steps to reduce waste: smart shopping, smart storage, smart preparation, and smart saving. The “Food Too Good to Waste” toolkit calculated that when using proper techniques for purchasing, preparing, and storing, the average family could save between $30 and $1,600 on grocery bills each year.

The study diverted roughly 1,000 pounds of food from ending up in the Iowa City Landfill where food accounts for 15 percent of total landfill waste. The study did not separate preventable food waste (such as rotten vegetables) from non-edible organic waste (like coffee grounds).

The Iowa City Landfill has a specific facility for commercial compost. Over the past seven years the facility has diverted more the 850 pounds of waste from the landfill. The compostable material goes through a rigorous process, beginning with a microbial and bacterial breakdown of the organic matter. The material is than heated to more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks to kill harmful bacteria and weed seeds. Lastly, the material goes through a 30-day curing period. In all this process takes six to eight months and the final product is sold for fertilizer and other uses at $10 per pound.

According to data compiled by the Natural Resource Defense Council, the average person throws away about 20 pounds of food each month which amounts to $28 to $43.

UI hospitals add composting

Photo by max-R, Flickr.
Photo by max-R, Flickr.

Beginning on March 28, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will start putting food compost bins in their six dining rooms.

Additionally, in February the hospital announced they would eliminate Styrofoam and nonrecyclable plastic from its cafeterias.

The collected compost will be taken to the Iowa City Landfill, which has done food composting since 2007.

Read the full story here.

Iowa City Landfill fire covered

Millions of tires burned during the 15-day fire at the Iowa City Landfill. Photo courtesy of Aneta Goska and the Iowa Flood Center.

The Iowa City Landfill is once again open to the public following a series of fire-extinguishing efforts.

The “stir, burn, and cover” operation that began June 4, which started by stoking the flames to accelerate the consumption of fuel, ended Sunday as the smoldering remains were covered by a layer of clay.

The tires are expected to burn beneath the layer of clay for at least a few days, and during the time city officials are directing their efforts on containment.

“It could be several weeks,” Geoff Fruin, assistant to Iowa City manager Tom Markus, said Monday. “We’ll monitor the temperatures below the surface. We’ll be able to see any continued burning through surface burning or smoke that breaks the cap.”

The landfill may still occasionally produce smoke, and fire crews will remain on-site to monitor the situation, but no large plumes or flare ups are expected.

Iowa City Landfill fire update

The Iowa Flood Center mobile weather radar unit stationed at the Iowa City landfill. Photo courtesy of Aneta Goska and the Iowa Flood Center.

The City of Iowa City released an update yesterday concerning the ongoing fire at the Iowa City Landfill.

The city advised residents in the path of the smoke plume to avoid exposure – particularly those who have conditions which could be aggravated by the smoke. Various organizations including the Johnson County Health Department, the State Hygienic Laboratory, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources continue to monitor the region’s air quality.

Additionally, the Iowa City Fire Department is planning to conduct a operation known as “stir, burn and cover,” in which they will stir the burning tires to accelerate the consumption of remaining fuel sources and then cover the remains in a layer of clay soil to suppress the fire.

For more information, read the full City of Iowa City press release, and check out a live webcam of the fire, here.

Iowa Flood Center radar remains safe from landfill fire

Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Flickr.

Researchers at the Iowa Flood Center are crossing their fingers that the Iowa City Landfill fire wont affect one of their sensors.

One of their mobile weather radar units is located at the landfill. So far it has avoided damage, but the Iowa Flood Center engineers will continue to monitor the situation closely. The radar provides rainfall intensity data for the Clear Creek watershed.

The Iowa Flood Center plans to clean the radar once the fire is extinguished.

Read more about the radar from the Iowa Flood Center’s website here.

Read a question and answer interview about the Iowa City landfill here. The interview explains the environmental concerns involved, and why it might be best to let the fire extinguish on its own.

University of Iowa to use methane from landfill for energy

Photo by Chris Davis, Flickr

One city’s decaying trash can be a university’s energy – or something like that.

The University of Iowa will use methane from Iowa City’s landfill to power its research campus – a project that will generate revenue for the city and limit emissions of a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Continue reading