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All In On Recycling, Iowa City Celebrates Early Grant Success

Iowa City is on a roll. Thanks in part to a $106,000 grant from The Recycling Partnership, the community rolled out new, larger recycling carts to residents in December 2018. But the story only begins there. Iowa City has seen promising increases in recycling so far, with recycling tonnage increasing 30% through the first nine months of the project. In addition, residents across Iowa City now have ample storage for their recyclables and automatic access to convenient, effective, and efficient collection services.

Part of the city’s success can be found in its adoption of single-stream recycling, meaning all materials can be mixed together in recycling bins. This, combined with the availability of the new 65-gallon recycling carts, has led to collecting an additional 60 pounds of recycling per year from the average household.

Building on these exciting increases and new participation, Iowa City continues to emphasize that recycling better is also important. Resident education continues thanks to resources provided by The Recycling Partnership.

“We are beyond pleased with Iowa City’s most recent progress,” said Rob Taylor, Director of Grants and Community Development at The Recycling Partnership. “Iowa City’s continued commitment to helping residents recycle more, better, shows that cities across our country understand the value of wasting less.”

How it all started

In late 2018, Iowa City was awarded a grant for residential recycling carts by The Recycling Partnership. Part of the All In On Recycling challenge in conjunction with the PepsiCo Foundation, the grant helped Iowa City invest in expanding recycling services to more than 16,000 households.

The work in Iowa City started with the goal of providing every eligible household with a recycling cart. From there, The Recycling Partnership partnered with the city to create a customized public education campaign designed to help Iowa City residents increase the quality and quantity of their recycling.

“The City of Iowa City has had a great experience with The Recycling Partnership,” said Jane Wilch, City of Iowa City Recycling Coordinator. “They provided flexible support for our community’s needs and ability; with their assistance, we were able to enhance the local conversation on recycling collection, particularly how to properly recycle curbside using the new carts. We really appreciate The Partnership staff’s industry expertise and ability to help us move our program forward.”

It’s not just the carts

But it’s not just the carts. Iowa City’s commitment to Reduce. Reuse. Recycle and Rethink. goes far beyond merely increasing curbside recycling. Starting in 2019, the city kicked off a comprehensive education campaign aimed at helping residents recycle better. The campaign included regular recycling tips, schedules and information shared via social media, radio, bus ads and local media.

Even with a comprehensive recycling program, Iowa City has recognized that recycling alone won’t help the city reach its ambitious goal to reduce waste reaching the landfill by 50% before 2025. Enter Rethink and Reuse.

With this ambitious goal in mind, the city set out to curb the sharp increases in trash traditionally seen in July and August due to residents moving as leases changeover. In addition to encouraging residents to recycle as much as possible, the community is encouraged to donate items that may find new life in secondhand and consignment shops.

Iowa City provides an online directory of area resale and consignment options, and the community hosts Rummage in the Ramp, the city’s late July resale event, intended to keep tons of items out of the landfill during lease turnover while fundraising for local not-for-profit organizations.

So what about Rethink? Recognizing 36% of what goes into its landfills are organics, the city is deploying organics carts to collect yard and wood wastes through curbside collection.

Why communities like Iowa City recycle

Iowa City isn’t alone in these efforts. Thanks to the efforts of The Recycling Partnerships’ All In On Recycling, movements like these are sweeping cities across the nation. The All In On Recycling challenge, in conjunction with the PepsiCo Foundation, was started to make recycling easier for 25 million families across the country by providing communities with the resources they need to help citizens recycle more and recycle better. The movement can already be seen in 1,300 U.S. communities or more than a quarter of the nation’s population.

Communities like Red Wing, MN; Vineland, NJ; Dickinson, ND and five communities in Central Ohio are also seeing upgrades to their recycling programs, including renewed efforts to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rethink. These communities join more than a thousand across the U.S. that have benefited from The Recycling Partnership’s recycling tools and education resources.

So just why have 1,300 U.S. Communities seen a renewed focus on recycling?

  1. Recycling supports our economy and directly employs more than 164,154 of our friends and neighbors according to a just released study by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI). A connected recycling system drives a robust circular economy, one that generates $110 billion in economic activity and $12.9 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue. Without recycling, we would continue to rely on a linear economy that further depletes our planet’s natural resources.
  2. It helps the environment. Recycling successfully diverts hundreds of millions of pounds of recyclables from landfills and avoids millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. This creates healthier air and cleaner water close to home and across the globe.
  3. Americans have grown to value recycling. Residents see recycling as a public service, similar to police, fire, water and trash collection and consumers want to “waste less” – a move to Reduce, which consumers also expect brands and retailers to do their part.

A November 2018 survey conducted by The Recycling Partnership of 2,000 Americans shows that:

  • 73% recycle because it helps reduce landfill waste;
  • 72% of consumers expect companies that sell packaged goods to make their packaging recyclable;
  • And 62% expect consumer packaged goods brands to use recycled content in their packaging.

And, it’s making a difference in our environment, our communities and our world. With support from more than 46 funding partners, The Recycling Partnership has catalyzed nearly $55 million in recycling infrastructure and education to transform recycling for good.

As a result of All In On Recycling, The Recycling Partnership estimates the challenge will help the U.S. capture 1.9 million tons of quality recyclable materials over the next five years. That would equate to a total greenhouse gas avoidance of 5.5 million tons of CO2 or the equivalent of removing more than 1 million cars off the road for a year.

Iowa City's new recycling carts
Iowa City's new recycling carts
Iowa City's new lidded recycling carts
Educating residents about Iowa City's new recycling carts
Educating residents about Iowa City's new recycling carts

Iowa City is All In On Recycling

All In On Recycling was made possible in part by the PepsiCo Foundation. The industry-wide challenge will improve recycling for 25 million families across the country. But we can’t do it alone so we’re calling on business and community leaders – and you – to join us.

To join the “All In On Recycling” challenge and learn how you can help, or to become a community that benefits from the Challenge, go to allinonrecycling.com.

All In On Recycling Press Release: Iowa City Cart Grants