116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s official: Linn County will not have a landfill within its borders after the current one closes in Marion in 2044.
“That option is off the table,” agency communications director Joe Horaney said. “It doesn’t mean a landfill won’t play a role. It just won’t happen here.”
The solid waste agency’s board made that decision because no Linn County land is available for a new landfill because of zoning restrictions.
Instead, the agency and its board are looking at regional solutions in its “Forward 2044” planning, according to Karmin McShane, the agency’s executive director.
“There are real options for segregating waste streams now and working with our partners across the state,” McShane said. “The study and planning has been positive, and we’re definitely not alone in our need for future capacity. It’s been really good talking with everyone.”
Some of the ideas include partnerships with other counties or even teaming up with a private company in a state like Illinois to handle some of Linn County’s waste.
Linn County, for example, could ship some of its waste to a neighboring county’s landfill and, in return, that county transfers some of its waste to be incinerated in Linn County.
“We have done a lot of outreach,” Horaney said. “We’ve spoken with Iowa County, Jones County, and Iowa City is aware of our situation as well. It’s not like we’re asking, ‘Hey, come take our garbage,’ but we’re developing those potential partnerships so there will be an answer 20 years down the road when our current location closes.”
The 360-acre landfill in Marion is projected to be at capacity by June 30, 2044 — 22 years from now. The landfill takes in more than 600 tons of garbage and trash a day.
But the increased debris that came in after the August 2020 derecho adds to the urgency. The agency asked the city of Marion in summer 2020 to extend the landfill’s capacity through 2074. The city notified the agency in March 2021 it would not do that.
The agency also operates a yard-waste site near Mount Trashmore in Cedar Rapids.
The Marion landfill, at the corner of Highway 13 and County Home Road, has been in operation since the 1970s. But the Cedar Rapids-Linn County Solid Waste Agency and Marion agreed in 1994 to expand the landfill after several attempts to site a new landfill in Cedar Rapids failed.
Options more expensive
In February 2021, the solid waste agency hired HDR — for $445,810 through this upcoming summer — to evaluate its long-term waste-management options. HDR has worked with the agency before, designing the trails and overlook at the Mount Trashmore landfill after it closed.
The options under consideration for handling waste include thermal, biological, chemical and mechanical. That list will be pared now that a Linn landfill is no longer on the table.
“Landfilling is the cheapest garbage disposal option,” Horaney said. “All other alternatives, including transfer stations, involve more handling.
“Every time garbage is handled, costs go up. … With other technologies, there will be more steps once the garbage is dropped off … those steps add costs. Even transfer stations involve moving the garbage to another larger truck for transport to a landfill somewhere else, bringing in more costs.”
Regardless, it’s likely there is no one solution, but rather a multifaceted approach.
“Everything is still ongoing,” Horaney said. “2044 seems far away, but it’s going to be here before you know it. But knowing for sure there won’t be a landfill is a big step, and we’re going to keep after this process until we find out what works best for Linn County, its people and its businesses.”
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Current members of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency board are:
Louis Zumbach, chairman, Linn County supervisor
Scott Olson, vice chairman, Cedar Rapids City Council member
Craig Adamson, secretary, Marion appointed representative
Mike Duffy, Cedar Rapids streets superintendent
Sandi Fowler, treasurer, Cedar Rapids deputy city manager
Roy Hesemann, Cedar Rapids utilities director
Tiffany O’Donnell, Cedar Rapids mayor
Ben Rogers, Linn County supervisor
Tyler Olson, Cedar Rapids City Council member