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Cardboard ban at Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center now in effect

Homeowners signed up with the city to have curbside trash and recycling pick-up will not be fined, but if they choose not to recycle their cardboard, they might not have their trash collected.

A new law to cut waste in Johnson County went in effect on January 2, 2018.

It is enforcing all residents or businesses throwing away trash to not throw cardboard boxes into the mix.

Leaders hope the change will cut down on waste that what winds up in the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center.

Now residents or garbage trucks throwing away trash at the landfill cannot have visible cardboard inside each load, or they may be fined.

"That load will be charged double the regular tipping fee," said Jane Wilch, who is the City of Iowa city Recycling Coordinator.

Homeowners signed up with the city to have curbside trash and recycling pick-up will not be fined, but if they choose not to recycle their cardboard, they might not have their trash collected.

"As a resident, if there is cardboard that is visible within a trash cart, the staff has been trained to leave that load," said Wilch.

Wilch said only a few trash dumps faced fines since the policy took effect, which may also be because the bitter weather has not brought a lot of business to the landfill this week.

"But we definitely are in enforcement mode," she said.

That kind of enforcement could take time to settle in, especially for staff and students at the University of Iowa.

"There is some concern because you don't know have control over what everybody is throwing in the trash, or the recycling bin, and you're sort of relying on them to do the right thing," said Elizabeth MacKenzie, the Recycling Coordinator for the UI Office of Sustainability.

Now, the landfill is spot checking trash for visible signs of cardboard. The UI Office of Sustainability said that by using unofficial spot-checks leading up to the ban, they were able to determine how recycling could improve at the university.

"It allowed us to look at our situation and see that there were some buildings where the recycling collection needed to be increased because there was so much cardboard," said MacKenzie.

It is too early to tell how the change will impact residents, but on campus, education on sustainability is key as students move back and bring more cardboard with.

"I don't anticipate having problems with this cardboard ban," said MacKenzie.

The city said residents should also not be concerned with how this ban could affect weekly cravings for pizza and takeout.

"Items that are food stained [on the] cardboard [are] an exception to this rule. Those cannot technically be recycled,"said Wilch.

For the city, it was important to start the ban near the end of the holidays because that is also around the time more people are throwing away cardboard from purchased gifts.

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