Posted on October 14, 2022

MRF Lobby

As seen in WasteRecycling Magazine.

Since China announced its National Sword policy in 2017, the demand for domestic infrastructure in the U.S. has increased, as materials need somewhere to go to be processed and the waste and recycling industry needs more options for end markets.

Recognizing the challenges of National Sword early on, Metro Waste Authority in Grimes, Iowa, built a 101,100-square-foot materials recovery facility (MRF) called Metro Recycling Facility that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for end-user manufacturers.

"In 2018, our third-party processor was struggling with recycling materials from our Curb It! curbside recycling program," says Michael McCoy, executive director for Metro Waste Authority. "We recognized that mixed paper was often being sent to the landfill as opposed to being recycled, so we took action to divert this material by working with brokers and regional commodity buyers and gaining approval from our board of directors to build and run a MRF."

The Metro Recycling Facility, which began operations in November 2021, now serves more than 100,000 households via the agency’s Curb It! program as well as an additional 100,000 households from Des Moines, Iowa. It’s on track to process approximately 30,000 tons of material at 25 tons per hour in its first year of operations and is slated to receive additional volumes of recyclables as the need for enhanced recycling processing evolves.

MRF Equipment

To manage the recyclables it receives, the MRF is equipped with an innovative sorting system installed by CP Group that is capable of recycling materials such as old corrugated cardboard, mixed paper, glass, cartons, polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, aluminum and tin. To date, the facility has sold, on average, nearly 1,500 bales of material each month to its end market users.

According to Metro Waste Authority, however, the MRF’s success wouldn’t be possible without the help of local communities and residents.

"We ensure residents of all ages remain knowledgeable and enthusiastic about responsible waste management and environmental stewardship by prioritizing a multifaceted focus on education," says McCoy. "The Education Center at the MRF features an interactive learning space with a contamination wall, conveyor belt activity, commodity infographics and podiums and a kiosk that tells the full-circle story of recycling; exhibit space; vibrant mural made from repurposed materials; observation deck above the sorting floor; and multipurpose space."

Metro Waste Authority’s commitment to education and recycling has been recognized not only by the communities it serves but by the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), which presented Metro Waste Authority with a 2022 Recycling Facility of the Year Honorable Mention award.

"This recognition from NWRA is a testament to the vision of Metro Waste Authority’s Board of Directors for the future of recycling in Central Iowa," states McCoy. "We thank the organization for honoring the dedication shown through the establishment of a regional approach to recycling processing."

In addition to running its MRF, Metro Waste Authority owns and operates Iowa’s largest landfill; manages the region’s curbside recycling, waste and yard waste collection; provides safe hazardous waste disposal; and pilots innovative programs such as appliance demanufacturing.

Looking to 2023 and beyond, Metro Waste Authority is committed to ensuring the integrity of Central Iowa’s recycling program through its new MRF and will continue to evolve priorities, programs and services to ensure it meets the needs of its member communities and others for years to come.