Organics Recycling Center begins accepting home food waste

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Since beginning operation in January 2020, the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center has made it its mission to reduce the amount of food going to landfills and to use it to create energy and fertilizer. Now, the Center has taken the first steps towards accepting food waste from local residents.

A unique food collection program, the Center can take loose food in compostable bags as well as spoiled food in plastic, cardboard, or metal packaging. Because of their state of the art de-packaging machine, they can extract food from its container, separating food waste out to go to an anaerobic digester, which will convert it into methane gas and fertilizer while piling up the packaging for disposal. Because the waste goes to a digester, the Center cannot take natural fiber fabrics, leather, yard waste, pet waste, or other similar items because the bacteria cannot break it down. For the safety of the people working the de-packaging machine, the Center does not accept food in glass packaging, which breaks too easily.

If you would like to drop off food waste, you may do so by bringing it to the orange container outside the Muscatine Transfer Station, located at 1000 South Houser Street, Muscatine between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Saturdays. The Center also accepts used or spoiled cooking oil in a container at a special drop off point around the corner from the orange container.

As the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center begins accepting household food waste, Water and Resource Recovery Facility Director Jon Koch hopes to get more people contributing. To that end, he instituted a limited trial of no-odor compost buckets throughout the city. Using the data he collects from the families and individuals using them, he hopes to put together recommendations for the best kinds of buckets and compostable bags for people to purchase and for local grocery and hardware stores to carry. He also would like to find several community partners who would have food waste collection bins on their property for the public to use, making it easier for more people to access them. In the future, he would also welcome partnering with a private company to pick up food waste directly from people’s homes.

Currently, the Center’s digesters put out the equivalent of 800 gallons of vehicle fuel each day, in the form of natural gas. The gas powers the boilers that heat the digesters and the excess gets flared off. In the next two years, Koch hopes upgrades to the digesters will make it possible to create enough energy to sell back into the electrical grid, providing a new source of power for the area and bringing in new revenue for the City.

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