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NL residents can compost food for curbside pickup

Curb your garbage

NORTH LIBERTY– Curbside composting is now available to all North Liberty residents interested in reducing waste.
The program, which began its test run last month with just seven households, has now expanded to the rest of the city, with over 70 families signed up to participate already.
Tracey Mulcahey, North Liberty Assistant City Administrator, feels the program is just a smart idea for those looking to be more eco-friendly.
“It makes so much sense. For me, it’s a nice way to help generate compost for someone else that will use it,” Mulcahey said. “It’s not going to the garbage, it’s going somewhere where it can be reused.”
Her own family was one of the test households for curbside compost pick-up and Mulcahey said they saw an almost 50 percent reduction in the amount of waste they put out each week.
This is because almost any food matter can go into the bins, from dinner leftovers to pizza boxes.
Compost is created by letting that organic matter decompose for weeks- combining the right amounts of carbon and nitrogen-based materials, oxygen, and water– until it becomes a dark, nutrient-rich soil. The resulting soil is perfect for use in lawn and garden care.
Steve Smith, of Johnson County Refuse, has been one of the biggest proponents of creating a residential program. For years, Johnson County Refuse had done commercial composting for businesses and schools in the area, but Smith realized he was in the position to do even more by taking the program to people’s homes.
“Our biggest customer base is residential so I’m in the kind of business to help those who want to do this,” Smith said. “We make it happen.”
But, creating North Liberty’s program was somewhat of a challenge for Smith, who looked at the models used by several other Iowa cities. However, he found that none of them were exactly what he wanted.
Dubuque was the first city in Iowa to create a curbside compost program, but it stops collecting in the winter months. Iowa City also created a pilot program, but nothing has grown out of it yet.
Smith hopes North Liberty’s will be the most comprehensive program in the state and that it will to expand to other cities in the area.
Jennifer Jordan, Recycling Coordinator for the Iowa City Landfill, feels that in two years, most cities in the area will have adopted similar programs, and is excited for what that would mean for the landfill. She and 11 other landfill and transfer stations did a study with the DNR in 2011. What they found was that 15 percent of what goes in to the landfill is food waste.
“That’s 18,000 tons. Even if we reduced half of that, it will make a huge impact,” Jordan said.
Composting also impacts the amount of methane gas put into the atmosphere, Jordan said. When food waste is buried in a landfill, it releases methane, which is 21 to 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Composting, when done properly, reduces this amount significantly.
“I think [North Liberty’s program] is wonderful,” Jordan said. “It’s setting great example for other communities in the state.”
Mulcahey feels the city has always been willing to experiment and embrace new ideas.
Last spring, the city sold over 100 rain barrels and 68 backyard composters to residents wanting to conserve water and reduce waste.
“North Liberty is a very forward thinking community from the top down to the residents,” Mulcahey said. “Everyone is ahead of the curve and looking to do some positive things.”
One thing Jordan also hopes to see is more emphasis on reducing waste “upstream,” by encouraging residents to shop their shelves first before buying more at the grocery store. She feels this will have the biggest impact on the amount of energy and resources wasted.
Those wanting more information about the curbside compost program can contact Mulcahey at 319-626-5700 or tmulcahey@northlibertyiowa.org. Yard waste bags, used for lining the compost bins, cost $1.65 and can be purchased at a number of stores in North Liberty.


What can be included for composting?

· Baked goods and dough
· Cardboard (wet or dirty, but not waxed)
· Cereal and oatmeal
· Coffee filters/grounds
· Dairy products
· Eggs and eggshells
· Fish and fish parts, shellfish, raw
or cooked including bones
· Flowers and cut flowers
· Food leftovers
· Fruit matter
· Meat, bones and meat products, raw or cooked
· Pasta and noodles
· Pizza, including pizza boxes
· Paper napkins, paper towels, facial tissues
· Paper cups, plates or bowls
· Plate scrapings
· Salad and salad dressing Tea and tea bags
· Vegetable matter

What CANNOT be included?
· Plastic, metal, Styrofoam
· Cigarette butts and ashes
· Dishes and silverware
· Hazardous and medical waste
· Saran Wrap or cellophane
· Straws
· Pet waste and litter
· Plastic bags or film
· Polystyrene carryout containers
· Wine corks
· Waxed cardboard