Wasted Effort: A look at how recycling is handled in the Midwest

Wasted Effort: A look at how recycling is handled in the Midwest

One thing humans can agree on is that we create waste. Waste made from various materials that may be recyclable.

Recycling receptacles can be found throughout the country but here in the Midwest it is not as common.

South Sioux City Public Works Director Robert Livermore says, "They're not really trying to reduce the amount of material that's going to landfills as much here as they are like on the coasts."

He says recycling is not as much as a priority as it is in other places.

Livermore says if citizens of South Sioux City, Nebraska do recycle they can have their tub picked up along with their regular garbage with no extra fee.

However, since this area is such a small market, he says these materials are not handled locally.

He added, "There's not enough recycled materials locally to make it worth while to handle it here so it goes to a bigger market like Omaha."

Those materials take time to transport and cost money to make into a new reusable item.

In South Dakota, recycling is handled at a local level allowing citizens the option to drop off materials at a site or use curb side recycling.

It's up to citizens whether they want to participate or not, however it costs a little more.

Nick Emme is the recycling coordinator for South Dakota's Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) and says, "The towns may have a fee in their monthly utility service or the customers may pay that to have that service so there is some fees with recycling."

Emme says there are over 190 recycling facilities located in the state of South Dakota.

In Sioux City, Iowa where there are 25,000 households, 48 percent of those households own a recycling bin.

The glass bins that were placed around town within the past year have already recycled 76 tons of glass.

Melissa Campbell is the environmental specialist of Sioux City and says the city has even greater plans for the future.

Campbell says, "Over the next year, we're working on doing a new recycling campaign. Something that's very cohesive and has a brand and a logo, tagline."

All of the recycled waste besides glass is sent to Le Mars while everything else is sent to a landfill site in Jackson, Nebraska.

Leonard Gill has been in the waste management business for almost 35 years and owns that landfill.

He says the waste he's managed in the metropolitan area has created a 32 acre footprint which is roughly 32 soccer fields or 512 tennis courts.

He offered a reason why the Northeast handles waste differently saying, "Landfill space back east...New York, New Jersey so forth, they just don't have the space for landfills and the air space like we do have here in Nebraska."

This isn't to say the Midwest is not doing it's part to maintain planet Earth.

Efforts have been made to encourage recycling and spread awareness but there is less urgency in the Midwest compared to the coasts.

Like many aspects of life, money seems to be the driving force.

Livermore says, "Just hasn't been the mindset here yet because it just hasn't been a priority due to the economics more than anything I think."

Although money plays a role, Livermore and Campbell have some words of advice.

"Recycling's important. It's overall important to helping protect the environment."

"Just do it out of good stewards to the planet earth ya know."

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