FILE - IA trash, recycling, garbage, waste

Trash and recycling containers are seen in December 2018 in Tiffin, Iowa.

(The Center Square) – Iowa is seventh in the nation at managing waste, according to a ranking LawnStarter published Tuesday.

The outdoor services website’s 2022’s Best States at Managing Waste report compared each state, along with the District of Columbia, based on waste-reducing policies and infrastructure and weighed those factors against indicators of the results of those policies, such as the amount of refuse that was landfilled or reused.

Iowa scored well in facilities (8th) and waste (7th) and beat its neighbor Minnesota in those categories (11th for both) despite the North Star State ranking third overall. Iowa ranked above average (15th) in the policies and recycling categories, which were lower than Minnesota’s rankings. The Hawkeye State bested Wisconsin, which placed eighth.

While Iowa and Minnesota have mandatory recycling laws, plastic bag bans and yard debris bans, Iowa does not have an electronic waste recycling program while Minnesota does. Minnesota does not have beverage container deposit laws while Iowa does. Iowa received partial credit in the plastic bag bans and the multifamily recycling policies.

Iowa has fewer recycling facilities (.13) and more large waste facilities (5.04) per 100,000 residents compared with Minnesota (.22 and 2.42 respectively). Iowa has 48 municipal solid waste landfills while Minnesota has 35. Iowa has 2,408.68 tons of waste in landfills by state surface area while Minnesota has 2,282.68 tons by state surface area.

Recycling rates for common containers and packaging materials are higher in Iowa compared with Minnesota (62% vs. 60%). The share of production-related waste that is recycled in Iowa is 62.16% while Minnesota’s is 45.29%. The share of production-related waste that is managed for energy recovery is 2.46% in Iowa and .43% in Minnesota.

Iowa has 11 hazardous waste sites and eight recyclers of hazardous waste while Minnesota has 24 hazardous waste sites and 18 recyclers of hazardous waste. Minnesota recycles nearly 60 times more tons of hazardous waste than Iowa does (36,311 tons vs 630 tons). Toxic chemicals release per square mile in Iowa is nearly triple that of Minnesota (712.75 vs. 257.99). Its Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) score in 2019 (3,213,414) was higher than Minnesota’s (2,462,228).

Minnesota has more clothing donation sites (100) and more car junk yards (201) than Iowa does (65, 132 respectively).

University of San Francisco Adjunct Professor Brad Drda said in the report that composting and being mindful of waste production is key for residents seeking to limit the waste.

“Take responsibility for your own waste,” he said. “Look in your garbage can and let that guide your efforts. The heaviest portion for most people is probably food waste like coffee grounds and banana peels. Food waste sent to landfills turns into methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”

He advised avoiding buying items that come in packages, particularly plastic and plastic bags.

Alaska placed last, followed by Nevada and Montana, despite its achievement of the sixth best facilities and above average (19th) ranking in waste.

New England states Connecticut and Vermont placed first and second, respectively, while Maine took sixth place, despite ranking poorly for recycling hazardous and production-related waste. Connecticut is just one of the Northeast states that has implemented a “pay-as-you-throw” program that charges consumers based on the amount of waste they discard.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is developing a new approach for waste management. The summary of its latest meeting for the state’s transition to Sustainable Materials Management is here.