As of Wednesday, folks in Dubuque can now throw food scraps directly in with their yard waste.
It's part of a new effort by the city to keep compostable materials out of the landfill and find a useful purpose for them. It's Dubuque's latest step toward sustainability.
The future looks like a mess, and - in this case - that's a good thing. Wednesday morning the city gathered messy food scraps from Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School and took them to a new facility in Dubuque County called Midwest Organic Solutions. It's just off US Highway 20, between Epworth and Farley.
The company will compost the scraps and yard waste and sell the compost to anyone interested in using it in their garden or fields.
Dave Hermsen is the founder and owner of Midwest Organic Solutions, which operates under the larger Full Circle Organics Cooperative.
"It's actually a natural resource, when you look at it and go through the process of composting," Hermsen said of the compostable materials, also known as source separated organics. "When it goes back to the soil and creates a better biological environment in the soils, it's a win-win situation."
It's a win that keeps these reusable, compostable source separated organics out of the Dubuque area landfill.
"Probably about 14 percent of the landfill is food scraps," Dubuque's resource management coordinator Paul Schultz said. "That's 14,000 tons per year," considering the landfill sees some 100,000 tons of material annually.
He said compostable paper products bring that number of reusable materials that go into the landfill up to 22,000 tons per year, nearly a quarter of the landfill's annual load.
"We've been collecting food scraps for the last seven years, but we've been limited to two tons per week," Schultz said. "This new facility has the capability of doing 39 tons per day."
People in Dubuque can collect their food scraps throughout the week and put it directly in with yard waste or use compostable bags. The city also has specific food scrap bins available.
"It's really no different than what we've done with plastics and cans and cardboard," Hermsen said. "It really makes no sense to be burying all these items."
Hermsen said the food and yard waste brought in Wednesday should be ready for sale as compost in about three months.
The Dubuque City Council approved the contract between the city and Full Circle Organics at its regular Monday meeting.
"City collection customers may either subscribe to dedicated food scrap collection carts (13, 48, or 64 gallons) for an additional fee or place food scraps and compostable paper in with grass clippings, leaves, and other yard debris in their current yard waste cans, carts, and bags," a release from the city about the new program said.
"This City service expansion enables more citizens to help our community achieve its sustainability goals, usually for no additional cost, through increased diversion from landfill disposal, beneficial use of compostable paper and food scraps, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions," Schultz said in the release.
People interested in more information and tips on food scrap recycling can visit www.cityofdubuque.org/foodscraps or call Dubuque's Public Works Department at 563-589-4250.
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