City council extends recycling services to all Iowa City residents

Changes to Iowa City code make curbside recycling services available to all residents of Iowa City. (Mike Mahaffle/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | October 20, 2016

Iowa City council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ramp up recycling efforts in the city.

The first consideration of the amendment to City Code Title 16, Article 3H passed  7-0. It requires recycling services to be available for all multi-family units; currently the city only services single-family households up to four units. Changes made to city code will also provide curbside food-waste collection services and prohibit residents from dumping computers and televisions into the municipal landfill.

City council member Rockne Cole is a long-time proponent of the measure. He said, “We’re looking at diverting over 1,700 tons of material from the landfill.”

University of Iowa and community environmental groups have been advocating for a city-wide recycling program for years. Jacob Simpson, UISG City Council Liaison, said that these changes benefit students who wish to continue recycling after moving off campus. He said, “At the university, we have the opportunity for students to recycle in the dorms and practice something that they’ve learned, and then a lot of the time, they have to go off campus, and they don’t have that ability,” Simpson added, “I think now that the city has taken this step to provide this in off-campus buildings, we cannot just see a benefit to Iowa City, but I think this is going to be something that benefits the state and beyond, as people become more accustomed to recycling.”

City director of Transportation Services Chris O’Brien said that all residential complexes built after January 1, 2017 must immediately comply with the new recycling policy. Landlords that own existing dwellings will be granted a grace period to get in compliance.

City council member Cole added, “It’s a real great victory for the University of Iowa, our community and most importantly, the environment.”

Muscatine business receives governor’s Overall Environmental Excellence Award

Improper disposal of hazardous waste from household appliances can lead to ozone degradation and water contamination. (Steve Snodgrass, flickr)
Jenna Ladd | August 10, 2016

Weikert Iron and Metal Recycling of Muscatine was one of seven recipients of the governor’s Overall Environmental Excellence Award last week.

Founded in 1982, Weikert Iron and Metal Recycling has specialized in demanufacturing and recycling appliances and properly disposing of hazardous materials since regulations for appliance handling were passed in 2002. In 2015 alone, the company demanufactured over 5,000 refrigerators as well as thousands of air conditioning units, microwave ovens, dehumidifiers, and other appliances. With each disassembly, the business properly disposes of all hazardous materials including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury switches, refrigerants, and sodium-chromates.

A family run business, owner Mike Weikert admits that compliance with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) regulations can be difficult but worth the trouble, as improper disposal can cause water contamination and ozone degradation. Kurt Levetzow, of Iowa DNR, agrees, “The reason these were written was due to the hazardous components found in many of the appliances, some are carcinogens.”

Iowa DNR nominated Weikert Iron and Metal Recycling for the award. Levetzow commends their efforts,”Removal, storage, handling, record-keeping, there’s a lot of things these guys have to do to comply. And they’re probably one of the best in the region at maintaining compliance.”

Six other businesses, organizations, and communities also received the award including: Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority; Des Moines
Central Community Schools Global Science Class and the Central Green Team; City of Monona; Pure Fishing, Spirit Lake; Price Creek Watershed Project; Iowa County Soil and Water Conservation District, Williamsburg; Walnut Creek Watershed Coalition, Windsor Heights.


UNI, Cedar Valley Recycling team up for mixed-recycling initiative

An aerial shot of the University of Northern Iowa. (University of Northern Iowa)
An aerial shot of the University of Northern Iowa. (University of Northern Iowa)

Nick Fetty | September 9, 2015

The University of Northern Iowa has teamed up with Cedar Valley Recycling & Transfers to handle mixed-recycling collected on the UNI campus.

“There is a significant savings recognized by recycling and avoiding expensive landfill fees,” Mike Zwanziger, director of UNI’s Physical Plant said in a press release. “Trees and water are saved by recycling, less oil and other natural resources are used to recycle materials in lieu of using new materials, and less waste is being sent to a landfill, lessening the need to expand or open new landfills.”

Recycling bins are scattered across the UNI campus to collect paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal materials which will then be sorted at the recycling center. Despite being recyclable, the vendor is unable to accept styrofoam or glass containers.

UNI has teamed with the City of Cedar Falls to provide a recycling substation on the southwest corner of campus since 2012. During that time, 411.52 tons of paper, 248.6 tons of cardboard, 128.92 tons of plastic, 52.92 tons of glass, 33.41 tons of tin, and 8.52 tons of plastic bags have been collected.

The Princeton Review named UNI to its 2016 Green College Honor Roll recognizing not only recycling and sustainability practices but also research and outreach initiatives like the Center for Energy and Environmental Education and the Iowa Waste Reduction Center. Iowa State University was also named to the list of the nation’s top 24 environmentally conscious colleges and universities. The list was compiled using several different criteria including efforts to purchase local and organic food, overall waste diversion rate, and amount of campus energy generated from renewable sources.

Iowa City’s ‘Rummage in the Ramp’ raises more than $17,000

(City of Iowa City)
(City of Iowa City)

Nick Fetty | August 6, 2015

More than $17,000 was raised at this year’s ‘Rummage in the Ramp’ and that money will be split among the 36 local nonprofit organizations that helped with the event.

Rummage in the Ramp is an annual event organized by the City of Iowa City that gives an opportunity for area residents to either donate or purchase items at a garage sale-style market in the Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp downtown. The 10-day event not only serves as a fundraiser for local nonprofits – several of which are University of Iowa student organizations – but it also diverts thousands of pounds of reusable or recyclable items from ending up in the landfill.

“It’s a college town so a lot of leases have changed over in the last week or week and a half. So the whole point is to keep the stuff out of the landfill when the lease change over, keep it off the curbs keep it from getting ruined and get it to homes that can use it,” Iowa City recycling coordinator Jen Jordan told KGAN.

This year’s event saw more than 100 couches, 50 tables, 50 mattresses and box springs, 75 boxes of books, a couple of upright pianos, an organ, and more. In total, 25 tons of items were donated, displayed, and sold. Approximately six tons of items remained unsold when the sale ended on Sunday and these leftovers were either recycled or donated to local agencies such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Rummage in the Ramp has taken place each year since 2007. The 2015 event set a record for the number of participating nonprofits though raised slightly less money than the record $20,688 last year. Nearly 200 volunteers helped with the 2015 event and each of the 36 organizations received $457.

Iowa aims for 1st place conference finish at RecycleMania 2015

Herky and several University of Iowa students march around campus to promote RecycleMania 2015. (UI Office of Sustainability)
Herky and other University of Iowa students march around campus to promote RecycleMania. (UI Office of Sustainability)

Nick Fetty | February 3, 2015

After placing second in the Big Ten last year, the University of Iowa is aiming to take the conference’s number one spot in the RecycleMania 2015 challenge.

RecycleMania 2015 kicked off on February 1 and will continue through March 28. The eight-week event aims to educate students and other members of the University of Iowa community about the importance of recycling. Participants are encouraged to fill out the RecycleMania Pledge and Quiz to be entered to win weekly prize packages including a RecycleMania mug, lunch container, tote bag, and New Pioneer Co-op snacks.

RecycleMania is part of a nationwide program that began in 2001 between Ohio University and Miami University (Ohio). Since its inception, millions of students from 727 colleges and universities have recycled and composted more than 650 million pounds of material during the tournament’s time-frame.

Competing schools are critiqued on amount of trash and recyclable items collected divided per capita as well as  “which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling.” Last year, Purdue University had the highest recycling rate in the Big Ten at 39.4 percent followed by Iowa with 34 percent. Iowa finished 5th in the conference in 2013.

Nearly 400 colleges and universities around the country are participating in this year’s event. The state of Iowa has three institutions in this year’s tournament: The University of Iowa, Loras College, and Wartburg College.

On the Radio: Students push for off-campus recycling

Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
December 1, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at recent efforts at one Iowa university to increase recycling options for students living off campus. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for a transcript.

Transcript: Off-campus recycling

Students at one Iowa university are trying to bring their campus’ culture of recycling to the rest of the city.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The University of Iowa Student Government is seeking to make recycling easier in area apartments used by students at the UI. While receptacles for recycling cardboard, aluminum and plastic are widely available in UI dormitories and facilities, students are often disappointed to find much more limited options when they move off campus.

The UISG Sustainability Committee is hoping to change that by developing a petition to be signed by students and other residents who wish to see better recycling options in their neighborhoods. These changes would add minimal costs to apartment complexes, while having the potential to drastically increase recycling in Iowa City. Reports show that almost half of Iowa City’s population lacks recycling options in living spaces.

For more information about recycling, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa Public Radio discusses environmental issues affecting Iowans

Nick Fetty | July 8, 2014
Recycling recepticles in the Iowa City predestrian mall.  Photo by Scott Schumacher; flickr
Recycling recepticles in the Iowa City predestrian mall.
Photo by Scott Schumacher; flickr

On Mondays this July, Iowa Public Radio’s Ripple Effects series will examine environmental issues across the state.

This week’s edition featured stories about trash including a River to River segment about landfills in Iowa and waste-to-energy technology such as Ames’s Resource Recovery System. Mike Smith of the Iowa DNR discussed the possibility of groundwater contamination due to landfills while representatives from two waste-to-energy facilities discussed these alternative energy methods in Iowa.

Talk of Iowa discussed recycling in Iowa and offered advice for proper recycling practices. The report states that 50 to 80 percent of recyclable materials ends up in landfills and also examines the ecological benefits of composting. “Most of what we throw away everyday are the carbon and nitrogen – green and brown components – food and paper waste that building organic matter for soil. This is not rocket science but it is soil science,” said Scott Koepke, Chief Gardener for Soilmates Organic Garden Education Service in Iowa City.

IPR invites listeners to provide their feedback on environmental issues in Iowa by filling out this survey.

Iowa schools aim to reduce food waste

The University of Iowa, Coe and Luther colleges will join the University of Northern Iowa in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national initiative to reduce food waste.

Iowa, Coe and Luther were among nine universities that EPA said today will join its Food Recovery Challenge. The effort is aimed at encouraging businesses, organizations and institutions to actively participate in food waste prevention, surplus food donation, and food waste recycling activities.

Learn more about the EPA’s program here.

Environmentally friendly holiday tips!

  • Minimize your car use whenever possible to save gas and reduce air pollution. Take public transportation, carpool with a friend, or walk when you go shopping or to holiday parties.


  • Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Bring your own reusable bags, or consolidate your gift purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store.


  • Buy gifts that are kinder to the environment, such as LED bulbs, low-flow shower heads, cloth shopping bags, a solar-powered calculator, educational eco-toys, refurbished computer, backyard composter, rain barrel, refillable thermos bottle, and recycled-content stationary and note pads.


  • About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Consider giving rechargeable batteries and battery charger to accompany electronic gifts.


  • Consider non-material gifts. How about a gift certificate or coupon for music lessons, pet-sitting, house cleaning, guided tours, pre-paid class registration, a massage at a local spa, or tickets to a sporting event, museum, concert or play? Give a monetary donation in a friend’s name to a favorite charity.


  • Make edible gifts, such as breads, cookies, preserves, dried fruits, nut mixes, or herbed vinegars. Give the baked goods in holiday tins or baskets that can be reused.


  • Invest in your family and friends. Instead of giving a gift, contribute to a child’s savings account, education IRA or give them a U.S. Savings Bond.


  • Think up creative gift wrapping ideas. Wrap gifts in the comics, old calendars or maps, decorated brown grocery bags, or a colorful piece of fabric. Also remember to save gift boxes, ribbons, bows and gift wrap to use next year.


  • When buying holiday cards, choose cards made from recycled paper. Or, make your own cards out of last year’s cards and the wrapping paper you saved. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.
  • Photo by Virginia Millour; Flickr
  • Collect the foam peanut and bubble wrap from your purchases and take them to a mailing or shipping store where they can be reused.


  • Got a new microwave, toaster, clock radio, toy, or coat? Consider giving away your old appliances, toys, games, or clothing to a local charity or thrift store. Recycle or donate using the recycling locator at


  • Consider upgrading to energy saving LED holiday lights and strands that are up to 90 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent holiday bulbs.


  • If you plan on entertaining, have clearly marked recycling containers at your party for guests to recycle their cans and bottles. Send leftover items home with guests in reusable containers.


  • After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your local solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees.


  • If you’re going away from home for the holidays, turn down your thermostat and put lights on timers to save energy.
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McDonald’s Switching Polystyrene for Paper

Photo by AlohaStone; Flickr

Advocacy group As You Sow scored a noteworthy triumph this week when McDonald’s announced that it will replace environmentally destructive polystyrene foam coffee cups with paper cups at the company’s 14,000 locations in the U.S. Continue reading