Milk. Water. Coffee. Ketchup. Salad dressing. Cottage cheese. Yogurt. What do all these foods and drinks have in common?
They all come in plastic containers – containers that can be recycled.
This is evidenced by the number of plastic items that have been dropped off at the new Pottawattamie County recycling center in Oakland since it opened earlier this year.
Thanks to a $222,500 grant from Iowa West Foundation, rural residents can now recycle locally. The new building replaces the former refuse transfer station in Hancock, where public recycling wasn’t an option. According to the manager, the new location is more visible and can handle large loads.
“We’ve done 7 tons of cardboard in 7 weeks,” said Jacob Head, recycling center manager.
That equates to 14,000 pounds of cardboard that won’t go to the landfill.
So far, Carson resident Dennis Hotze (pronounced Hut-ze) is one of the most frequent customers. In the past, he’s collected cardboard from up to 50 businesses in Pottawattamie County, and recycled it in Omaha for .5 cents a pound.
That equates to thousands of hours, approximately 118 tons of cardboard (not to mention the paper, plastic, and glass) and a whopping $25 dollars per visit, which didn’t even cover his gas.
“I just can’t stand seeing anything buried in a landfill or burned,” Hotze said. “This is my way of giving back to the community. If I was doing it for the money, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Having collected all of the above from just three small communities in Pottawattamie County over just a few years, Hotze sees tremendous potential for the new recycling center.
Head agreed, and said in addition to being a recycling hotspot, he hopes to sell items for residents to reuse and repurpose (like paint and furniture) as well as classroom space for students to learn about upcycling.
Above all, he encourages people to go through their garages, clean out their closets and check off their honey-do lists by bringing items to 41911 Industrial Drive and not to the curb or dumpster.
Most items are free to drop off, except for tube TVs which cost $25.
“People feel good when they recycle and we want to help them get rid of things they don’t want,” he said.