- Ames, IA is using grant money from the state's Department of Natural Resources to perform a waste characterization study.
- Volunteers are sorting the waste stream into 10 categories in an effort to better understand what residents are throwing out and how the city can capture more energy from those materials.
- The city currently uses a one-bin collection system for all waste. Metal, glass and hazardous materials are sorted out for recycling and the rest is shredded to create refuse-derived fuel (RDF).
According to the city, its Arnold O. Chantland Resource Recovery Plant - built in 1975 - was the first municipally operated waste-to-energy facility in the country. The plant receives material from the surrounding county and processed more than 47,000 tons of refuse last year.
Ames boasts a recycling rate of more than 70%, but that number is actually an average over the past 20 years. The rates for recent years have been slightly lower. 2015 only had a 58% diversion rate due in part to the plant shutting down for six weeks. The city uses RDF as a supplement in its coal boilers to generate electricity and hopes to expand that operation in order to decrease emissions.
Minnesota's Hennepin County recently conducted a detailed characterization study to find ways to take advantage of its waste. As new packaging is introduced and municipalities focus more on zero waste these types of exercises are helpful approaches for maximizing the potential of waste streams.