By Julia Poska
Iowa City’s recycling staff has been doing major prep work to keep city the clean and green when thousands of RAGBRAI riders visit town overnight on July 27.
Jen Jordan, the city’s resource management superintendent, said logistics and education have been her main considerations. With camps and events spread so widely around the city, she cannot simply plop recycling bins down somewhere and hope for the best.
“Basically, wherever there’s a Porta-Potty in town, we’ll have a trash container and a recycling container,” said Jordan, who is also in charge of bathroom facilities as the Iowa City RAGBRAI sanitation chair.
It is hard to estimate how many visitors will need to be accommodated, she said, because not only registered riders but support and pickup vehicles, as well as people just looking to party, will be in town as well.
Iowa City residents will recognize the 65-gallon curbside carts that Jordan’s staff will put out, but out-of-towners may not. The visitors may not be familiar with Iowa City’s particular recycling rules and regulations, either.
“We’re getting people from all over the state, and potentially other parts of the country as well, who likely have different waste diversion and recycling programs than we have in Iowa City, so that’s especially where Jen’s focus on education is important,” city recycling coordinator Jane Wilch said.
Jordan said her education efforts have been largely online, but information about Iowa City’s recycling program is in the information books that all riders receive as well.
Even though the carts are labeled “recycling,” that does not mean they are for all recyclable materials, she noted. She hopes to collect mainly bottles and cans, but even that is not so simple. Glass bottles, for example, should be put in Iowa City’s curbside carts.
Despite Jordan’s best efforts, the riders may not cooperate. She is optimistic, though, that when given a choice, people will make the right one.
“I think if we make it easy for them and make it available, they’ll care more and they’ll work harder to do the right thing,” she said. “But if you have trash cans around town with no recycling bins, they’re not going to go out of their way to recycle.”
In the end, Jordan hopes her efforts show visitors Iowa City’s commitment to recycling and sustainability.
“Living up to the expectations that people have of Iowa City is always hard because, perhaps in my biased view, people often think that we do better,” she said. “So we have to do better.”