Iowa City Students Lobby for Landfill Bill

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Some Iowa City kids made a case for change at the Iowa State Capitol this week.

It all started with a science project. Students dug through trash at two restaurants at the end of last year. They wanted to know how much food waste was going to the landfill. The group was surprised with what it found.

"[We] found that 75 percent of that waste could be composted on average at the two restaurants," Joey Titus said.

An 11, 12 and 13-year-old took that research to Des Moines in support of a bill that's currently going through the legislative process.

"We wrote a speech and then reviewed our speech multiple times, and then we presented our speech to the subcommittee," Ethan Trepka, 12, said.

The group of students faced law makers, and they said they weren't even very nervous.

"I was really, really impressed," Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said.

Sen. Hogg took part in the meeting. He said their speech was enough to change his mind.

"I was kind of thinking well, this isn't necessarily that important of a bill," Sen. Hogg said. "We don't necessarily have to do this, but these three young men really made the case."

The young scientists said they are passionate about issues related to climate change.

"The big issue is methane is produced from decomposing food waste, and methane is a greenhouse gas," Trepka said.

The bill that law makers are considering directs the Department of Natural Resources to complete an annual report on waste going into the landfill and come up with solutions to the problem. The boys said composting is a simple solution.

"That can create jobs, save landfill space, create revenue and decrease methane emissions," Daniel Burgess, 13, said.

The students are back in Iowa City, but they said they were proud that their work could lead to changes.

"I just felt like an adult, basically," Andrew Burgess, 11, said.

"It's definitely a great feeling to be making a difference," Daniel Burgess said.

Law makers said it's pretty rare to see a group of youngsters debating legislation. Sen. Hogg said the boys helped push the bill forward. Legislators will discuss it and make changes, but it could be up for a vote on the senate floor by mid-March.
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