Grace Smith | July 29, 2022
Iowans send 556,313 tons of wasted food goes to landfills yearly. The 2017 Iowa Statewide Waste Characterization Study showed that compostable food makes up for 20 percent of landfilled materials, which is a 50 percent increase since the last study, which was published in 2011.
The compostable food takes up more space in landfills but also creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas, worsening the climate. But, if food is composted correctly, less carbon dioxide equivalent will be generated. For example, for every metric dry ton of food that ends up in the landfill, 0.25 metric tons of methane can be generated in the first 120 days, but, if that ton of food is correctly composted, it could reduce those emissions by the equivalent of up to six metric tons of carbon dioxide.
In Iowa, six composting sites are allowed to accept over two tons of compostable food per week, including the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. The Iowa City site is participating in multiple practices to ensure the facility stays environmentally cautious in its composting. Employees measure the temperatures of piles twice a week to confirm the heat is killing pathogens and diseases. The process of composting food waste into soil takes about a year.
While the Iowa City composting site is remaining cautious in its practices, an Iowa improperly managed facility in Eddyville caused runoff to flow into the ground and through the community. Theresa Stiner, a senior environmental specialist at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told the Press-Citizen that the DNR encourages composting, but only if it is environmentally mindful.