- Iowa's Metro Waste Authority (MWA) - an intergovernmental agency which services Polk County and 16 area cities - will decide on Wednesday whether to end the decades-old "Compost It" program for yard waste.
- The material is currently collected separately, but the MWA may begin commingling it with waste at landfills that have methane-capture systems. The agency estimates this could save up to $2 million per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting truck traffic for separate collections.
- While many residents are supportive, some local environmental groups are skeptical of the gas collection technology and concerned with potential methane leaks.
This conversation began last year after the state overturned a 1991 ban on yard waste in landfills with gas capture systems. Five landfills have this technology including Metro Park East - the state's largest - which receives about 18% of Iowa's waste. This site currently produces enough power for 11,500 homes and the MWA estimates that could grow to 17,000 homes by 2035 if yard waste was allowed.
A 2015 customer survey found that nearly 85% of customers support this idea and 44% of them already mix their yard waste with refuse. The MWA has indicated that the current program is losing money and rates might have to be raised if people want it to continue. Yet this approach could also shorten the landfill's lifespan by an estimated 15 years and MWA board members are currently divided on how they'll vote.
Yard waste has received different reactions across the country lately. Some states, such as Vermont, have banned it from landfills and require separate pick-up. One landfill in Alabama may run out of capacity if the material isn't diverted. Omaha, NE on the other hand has adopted the landfill approach due to the challenges of composting.