by Gigi Wood

IOWA CITY – Soon, a whole host of recycling options will be available on Iowa City’s east side.

The city began the bidding process April 15 for an expansion to the East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Blvd. SE. The site is home to Iowa Valley Habitat, an organization that builds homes for low-income families, and the Habitat ReStore, which sells building materials that would otherwise be headed for the landfill.

The city bought the property in 2006 and planned to construct additional buildings for the Furniture Project, a program that provides used furniture to those in need; Salvage Barn, a service that recycles building materials; oil and electronic waste drop sites, compost and wood chip pick-up stations, as well as an education center in 2008. The floods of that year delayed the project until now.

Most of the expansion is expected to be complete next year, with a 2012 finish date for the education center and adjacent bioswales, which are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The city will pursue a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating for the expansion. The expansion will cost $4 million, to be paid with landfill enterprise funds, not taxes.

“The main function of the site will be to host environmental groups that are doing environmental work or to provide (environmental) services that the city provides,” said Jennifer Jordan, the city’s recycling coordinator. “These are services that in many cases the city already offers and they’re services that are really important to the community.”

Once in place, the services will be available to residents in the county, but businesses are allowed to donate furniture to the Furniture Project and ReStore, she said.

The city will likely host a variety of events on-site when the expansion is complete, to promote the city’s recycling services and collect recyclables and hazardous wastes.

“Right now the landfill is the regional collection center for hazardous waste by appointment only for residents and businesses,” she said. “A lot of people don’t take advantage of it because they don’t want to make an appointment.”

Before the city bought the property, a garbage company and later an asphalt company occupied the site. A large part of the reconstruction and expansion work will involve digging up the asphalt parking lot and checking for garbage and hazardous materials underneath. The asphalt will be ground up and reused for the bedding of the new concrete parking lot. While the construction is taking place, entry into the existing buildings will be accessed through the north driveway and doors.

“There’s a lot of remediation that needs to be done,” she said. “That’s a big part of the environmental aspect of this project. We’re taking a site that’s, it’s usable, but it’s not necessarily bio-friendly, and we’re going to do as much as we can with the bioswales and stormwater management.”

The new buildings will be shell, warehouse-style unheated structures that are easy and inexpensive to construct. The education center will be a more permanent structure, constructed with glass walls, a rooftop garden, space for public meetings, private parties and administrative offices. A test area for permeable concrete will be installed next to the education center.

How many, if any, additional staff members that will be hired or moved to the expanded site has yet to be determined, she said.

“I think the key is it will be a central location for many programs that are in place,” she said. “You can come to one site and do your recycling, you can get compost, you can drop off stuff at ReStore, you can get furniture if you need it through the Furniture Project and stop in the education center and kind of wander around and relax while you’re here.”