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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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DUBUQUE AREA RECYCLING NETWORK (DARN). When the ideas of recycling were being discussed in the 1990s, four local groups began taking action. The Audubon Society, Boy Scout Troop 11, Dubuque Area Congregations United, and the Sierra Club at STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL established a weekly drop-off recycling program. (1) Using a trailer at 3355 John F. Kennedy Road from 8:00 a.m until 1:00 p.m. Saturday, the volunteers and organizations they represented were committed to operating the center until the city of Dubuque began CURBSIDE RECYCLING. (2) The city, beginning in July 1990, began charging $1.00 per month on refuse collection as a startup for a recycling program and was anticipating to collect $220,000 in fiscal 1991 ending June 30. (3)

While magazines were not taken, the collection included a pile for No. 1 plastics like soft drink containers and No. 2 plastics like colored bottles. A truck collected newspapers for reprocessing into new newsprint or for farmers who requested it for livestock bedding. Aluminum cans were culled for those with Iowa refund labels and another area was reserved for glass. (4)

Representatives of Mississippi River Revival and Boy Scout Troop II addressed the city council about the need to expand recycling in February, 1991. The city had requested proposals from private companies for collection, processing and selling recyclables and had applied for and received a $300,000 Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant for a citywide curbside program. Mississippi River Revival proposed the city pay "landfill diversion credits" to volunteer groups which operated recycling dropoff centers since the centers saved the city the $22 per ton tipping fee at the landfill. Another proposal called for the city to participate in sponsoring a newspaper-to-livestock-bedding demonstration. (5) In 1991, according to the Dubuque Area Recycling Network, ten farmers in Dubuque County were using newspaper for animal bedding on a regular basis for the Network's collection site. According to studies, newspaper compared to straw bedding was less expensive, needed less storage space, decomposed more quickly in the field, created fewer odors, and was more absorbent and sterile. (6)

On February 4, 1991 budget recommendations made to the city council included voluntary curbside recycling beginning on September 1, 1991. This pilot program costing $100,000 would run through November and would include the collection of cans, glass, plastic and newspaper by city employees using leased trucks.

Based upon the success of the pilot program, city-wide curbside recycling was expected by the second half of 1992. (7) The council announced on February 10, 1991 that the pilot program would begin on July 1, 1991 with a $95,000 projected cost and would try to help volunteers running a drop-off program until the pilot program began. Representatives of six volunteer groups running the recycling program quit in the fall. (8)

As curbside recycling took effect, members of the Dubuque Area Recycling Network (DARN) by September 1992 were making plans to end their recycling effort at ECONOFOODS. In the two and one-half years they had operated the collection site, DARN had logged more than 6,000 volunteer hours and collected more than 1,500 tons of material. There interest as Econofoods collection closed was to find financial support for opening new sites for those people not on the city's curbside program. DARN also believed their efforts had helped to inspire interest in recycling the the community and educate people as to what materials were recyclable. (9)

Recycling continued to expand in October 1992 when the city proposed establishing a drop-off site for magazines at Environmental Recycling on Radford Road until officials decided to add magazines to the curbside recycling program. City staff estimated that the magazine collection could cost just over $5,000 annually and $340 more if the magazines could not be marketed and had to go to the landfill. (10)

In April 1993 city officials declared curbside recycling "a huge success." One year after the voluntary program was started 70% of the residents were participating and city crews had picked up 2,085 tons of recyclables equal to 11% of the municipal garbage pickup. Combined with the yard waste composting program, the amount of waste had been cut by 28% bettering the state mandated reduction of 25% by July 1, 1994. (11)

The addition of curbside collection of magazines became a fiscal 1994 budget amendment. Environmental Recycling had offered to decrease from $33 to $30 the per-ton fee it charged. (12) In June 1993 the city council agreed to add $70,000 to the city's solid waste budget for help purchase two trucks for magazine collection. Realignment of staff and adding trucks might allow the city to add other materials to the collection in the future. (13)

In 2013 in response of the economic challenges facing the Dubuque landfill, a new Dubuque Area Recycling Network was announced. Based on estimates that over one million dollars of marketable materials and items were buried in the landfill annually, the Network announced its goals. (14)

    1) Increase commercial food scraps diversion by 1,000 tons annually.
    2) Bring together eight stakeholders to plan for a facility established to
       take in used building materials and market them for reuse.
    3) Increase the number of identified businesses engaged in significantly
       improved diversion of their discards to recycling by fifty businesses
    4) Develop a collaborative campaign to increase the volume of marketable
       reusables being diverted to beneficial use venues by 5% annually.
    5) Reduce toxins in the home by helping to divert household hazardous
       materials from landfill by 5% annually.



1. Giannakouros, Raki. "Don't Throw That Away, DARN It!", Julien's Journal, April 2013, p. 44.

2. Hanson, Lyn. "Recyclable Trash Pouring In," Telegraph Herald, January 27, 1991, p. 6A

3. Gilson, Donna. "Volunteers Want Recycling Soon," Telegraph Herald, February 1, 1991, p. 3A

4. Ibid.

5. Gilson, Donna.

6. Arnold, Bill. "Farmers Use Shredded Newspaper," Telegraph Herald, February 2, 1991, p. 3A

7. Gilson, Donna. "Recycling Program Proposed to Council," Telegraph Herald, February 5, 1991, p. 3A

8. Gilson, Donna. "Recycling Ok'd," Telegraph Herald, February 10, 1991, p. 1

9. Arnold, Bill. "Recycling Remains After Site Closes," Telegraph Herald, September 24, 1992, p. 1

10. Arnold, Bill. "Drop-Off Site for Magazine Recycling Studied," Telegraph Herald, October 4, 1992, p. 3A

11. Dickel, Dean. "Dubuque Says Curbside Recycling 'Huge Success,'" Telegraph Herald, April 16, 1993, p. 3A

12. Arnold, Bill. "Recycling Efforts Turn New Page: Magazines," Telegraph Herald, March 5, 1993, p. 3A

13. Eiler, Donnelle. "Magazine Recycling Slated," Telegraph Herald, June 8, 1993, p. 3A

14. Giannakouros