Emily and Jesse joined Chris Longer and her team from Indianola Municipal Utilities for a tour of the Metro Waste Authority landfill and Metro Hazardous Waste Drop-Off center a couple of weeks ago.
The first stop on the tour was at the Metro Hazardous Waste Drop-Off. The tour included not only what can be recycled, but how each type of hazardous waste is managed and disposed of or sometimes re-purposed. Our personal favorite machine was a paint can crusher. They take all oil based paint cans, crush them, and collect the excess paint to be placed in a drum and incinerated. Latex paints can be dropped off at the hazardous waste site for a small fee. Are you thinking of painting? Be sure to check the drop off sites for various colors of paint cans for cheap or free payment!
At the drop off site, there is a back storage warehouse full of old TVs, computer monitors, and other equipment containing heavy metals or lead. Metro Waste Authority not only houses these items for proper disposal, but they will come pick them up from your curb. Other common hazardous wastes accepted at the drop off site include:
- Light Bulbs – CFLs contain small amounts of mercury that should not be thrown into our landfills.
- Car Batteries or rechargable batteries
- Cell Phones
- Common house hold cleaners
- Motor Oil and other car fluids
- Medical Needles – These need to be put in sharps containers provided or laundry detergent bottles.
- Alkaline Batteries (A, AA, AAA, etc.) are NOT accepted but can be taken to any Interstate All Battery Center. Click here to find the nearest location
The items listed above are every day products that can not only poison people and pets, but they can leach into the water we drink and contaminate the air we breathe. If you are not sure about what should be brought to the Hazardous Waste Site versus being thrown away, the MWA website says it best, “Just read the labels. Do you see the words toxic, corrosive, reactive, flammable? Or worse yet, keep out of reach of children?”. MWA makes it even easier for you by bringing hazardous recycling drop off events to your community every spring through fall. Click here to view a schedule of upcoming events and a list of accepted and not accepted items. With more education and awareness, we can greatly reduce the amount of hazardous materials from our landfills! Click here for a complete recycling and disposal guide for any further recycling uncertainties.
Throughout the tour, we picked up on some disturbing facts about hazardous waste.
- 70% of heavy metals and lead in landfills come from Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) found in TVs and computer monitors.
- Only an estimated 3% of Iowa’s hazardous materials make it to the hazardous waste to be disposed of safely.
The second part of our tour was of the state of the art Metro Park East Landfill. The landfill uses only about 500 of its 1800 acres for actual trash disposal that makes up almost 18% of the whole state of Iowa’s waste. The landfill is designed with a thick liner that helps runoff any moisture or leach ate from the trash. The leach ate is then collected in wells and sprayed back over the trash for better compaction. The constructed wet lands help control, test, and prevent any polluted waters from our natural waterways.
During the tour, we were able to see the evolution of the landfill through three cells. The first cell, Cell A, was no longer being filled with trash and covered in soil. Through a series of piping, methane gas is allowed to be captured and either burnt off safely, or generated with the help of MidAmerican Energy into energy for about 1000 surrounding residential and commercial homes and businesses. The soil that covers up Cell A completely reduces bad smells. We were shocked that Cell A could have ever been used for waste disposal. After Cell A, we moved to the second cell, Cell B. This next cell was where dump trucks are currently bringing in trash for disposal and compaction. Finally, the third cell, Cell C, was under construction to become ready for waste disposal.
We would like to thank Chris Longer and everyone at Indianola Municipal Utilities for the opportunity to learn about waste disposal! We are impressed with the Metro Waste Authority’s innovative Environmental Management System.