A Progressive Approach to Waste Management
Monday, August 19, 2019
According to the latest Environmental Protection Agency report regarding trends in waste management, the United States generated about 262 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2015. More than half of this waste (which was 22 percent food) wasn’t recycled, composted or combusted into energy. It ended up in landfills.
Waste management is a topic that most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. We’re fortunate to have a forward-thinking organization in our area addressing this challenge. The Rathbun Area Solid Waste Commission (RASWC) helps cut down on the waste that ends up in the landfill. It serves as a transfer station, recycling center and regional collection center for hazardous waste.
Director Rodger Kaster notes that the area’s landfill was closed about 10 years ago when regulations on operating landfills became more stringent. “The commission felt a transfer station was a better service to the planning area and a more viable operation than a landfill,” he explains. “We could not justify being in landfill business so we moved to a transfer station where we load garbage and it’s sent off to the Marion County landfill or South Central Iowa,” he says.
Around the same time, the Rathbun Planning Area was selected by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as one of six Environmental Management System (EMS) pilot projects. The aim was to think beyond solid waste disposal by focusing on six categories: yard waste management, household hazardous waste collection, water quality improvement, greenhouse gas reduction, recycling services and environmental education.
In order to continue participating in this program, which provides some funding for infrastructure, RASWC has to show continuous improvement. It has been making progress in a variety of areas.
Its recycling programs were successfully expanded. It added a pad for shingle recycling and wood waste. Since 1993, RASWC has recycled over 25,000 tons of material. To put that into perspective: that’s enough to cover Centerville Square 11 feet deep!
Appliance demanufacturing was recently added to the transfer station’s services. Before appliances can be scrapped, the freon, mercury and other hazardous materials need to be removed. There are special requirements for disposal that RASWC now handles.
The organization has also worked to reduce the need for plastic water bottles. It installed 28 fountains with bottle fillers at schools in its planning area and provided students with refillable bottles.
Education is a key component of RASWC’s services. It has an on-site education center and provides tours for schools, businesses and other organizations on a variety of topics related to waste management, recycling and sustainable living practices.
RASWC has also worked with the Indian Hills Community College sustainable agriculture program to help reclaim land and reestablish grass at the Appanoose County Sanitary Landfill. IHCC is using the old landfill site for educational purposes in a cow/calf operation.
Learn more about RASWC and its progressive and multifaceted approach to waste management.