The Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center is among two sites in the state that is able to accept food scraps and compost at more than two tons a week. The Iowa City landfill began collecting food scraps in the late 2000s after a group of University of Iowa students requested a food scrap compost program. “It went really well, we had a separate compost pile just for that material which ended up being a higher quality compost because there was more nitrogen because of the food waste,” said Jen Jordan, the resource management superintendent in Iowa City.
Now, people living in Iowa City can mix food scraps and yard waste together in their curbside bins after the project was launched in 2017. “About half of our customers have those (bins),” Jordan said. “I don’t think half of our curbside customers actually do food scrap composting, maybe a quarter, but I’m really totally guessing. We serve about 16,500 households, so if we have 4,000 households participate in that program, even on a halfway regular basis, that’s a huge improvement over those materials going into the landfill.”
The food scrap and yard waste material gets ground up and crews will sift it and turn it so it cooks through evenly. Staff will take the compost piles’ temperature twice a week, usually ranging from 150-160°. The heat makes it so microorganisms can break down the material and kill disease pathogens. “The bugs and microbes and bacteria, they’re going to be eating that material and they produce carbon dioxide, water vapor, moisture and heat,” Jordan said. “It’s basically a vitamin for the soil. That’s all those nutrients are breaking down into that nutrient. People come and pick up this end product to put on gardens.”