The Muscatine Organic Recycling Center has only been in operation since May 2020, but the impact it’s already had on both landfills and methane emissions is garnering national attention. It’s a program unlike any other. There are currently only three such organic recycling stations in the U.S., and MORC is the only one in the Midwest.
The idea is to take in packaged food waste, unpackage it, send the wrapping to the landfill and turn the food waste into fertilizer and energy. Essentially, the center transforms table scraps and expired or damaged food waste into ‘liquid gold.’ “It’s a great success,” Jon Koch, director of the Water and Resource Recovery Facility for Muscatine, said. He also heads up the MORC and said the facility receives organic food waste from across the country, even as far away as Tennessee.
Regionally, the center hopes to become a hub for such activity. “We do about 30-40 tons of food waste a day. So that’s what would be going into the landfills if we didn’t do what we were doing,” said Koch. When food sits in a landfill it degrades and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. “Most of this food is inedible. That means something went wrong in the manufacturing process or it sat around for too long, so we can’t donate this food either.” Koch said the program has been running well and is even producing “a lot” more gas than what designers thought possible.