Metro Waste to build $24M Des Moines area recycling center

Published: Aug. 30, 2019 at 2:57 PM CDT
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Plans for a proposed $24 million recycling center in Polk County will move forward to ensure paper sorted for recycling is no longer dumped in a landfill, officials said.

Environmentally aware Des Moines residents were frustrated after learning that nearly 20 tons (18.14 metric tons) of recycled paper ended up in the landfill every day last summer after the metro's recycling company couldn't find a buyer.

Michael McCoy, executive director of the Metro Waste Authority, said their agency, which runs the landfill, wants to construct the facility to handle, sort and ultimately sell up to 45,000 tons (40823.33 metric tons) of recyclables annually.

"You won't see your paper go to the landfill," he said.

The recycling center could open as soon as 2021, potentially near the agency's Northwest Transfer Station in Grimes, The Des Moines Register reported.

McCoy said the new facility won't increase the trash and recycling fees of Metro Waste ratepayers. But Mick Barry, the president of Mid America Recycling, which processes and sells recyclable materials, said he is uncertain that Metro Waste can open the new facility without Polk County residents having to deal with some hikes.

"We don't think it's the right decision for the community," Barry said.

Altoona Mayor Dean O'Connor, a member of the Metro Waste board, said that the decision to construct a new facility stemmed out of frustrations with Mid America Recycling and also a need to serve a budding metro area.

Last fall, Mid America raised the fee it charges Metro Waste for recyclable materials from $47 per ton to $65 per ton.

But the rate spike was needed to cover Mid America's expenses after the commodities market plunged in 2017, when China — then the chief importer of recycled goods — implemented harsher standards, creating an excess of recyclable materials in the U.S., Barry said.

Metro Waste pays roughly $677,380 annually to Mid America for recycling processing, according Leslie Irlbeck, the organization's public affairs manager.

It would need to generate about $2 million in yearly revenue to cover the extra costs to operate the facility, which does not include the initial construction outlays.

Last week, Metro Waste approved the purchase of $10.9 million in equipment for the recycling facility.

While Mid America campaigned against the new center, the company will adjust and move forward as it has done for the past 40 years, Barry said.

Metro Waste's current contract with Mid America runs into 2021.