What do I do with

Shrink Your Garbage

Shrink your garbage when you reduce, reuse, and recycle!The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission encourages residents within the landfill’s service area to “shrink your garbage” and help to reduce the amount of materials entering the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill. Follow the “3R’s” to throw away less!


What’s in your garbage?

You know which day(s) to put your garbage out on your curb, but have you ever thought about what your family is putting in there in the first place? A simple home waste audit can help you figure that out!

Afterwards, you will have a better idea of what you have and can try some of the tips below to “shrink your garbage”. Depending on your city, you might even be able to SAVE MONEY when you are able to switch to a smaller garbage cart!


Reduce – Try not to create garbage in the first place!

  • Think Green – before you shop!
  • Buy only what you actually need.
  • Buy higher quality items that will last longer.
  • Repair broken items. Online repair guides, such as ifixit.com, contain step-by-step guides for fixing almost everything.
  • Get rid of toxic household products and make less toxic cleaners from your own kitchen ingredients!
  • Much of our garbage consists of excess packaging from food and store items. Purchasing in bulk reduces waste and saves money. Look for packaging that is recyclable in your community.
  • Try composting to recycle your yard and food waste into a nutrient rich soil additive or fertilizer.
  • Opt-out of receiving junk mail, prescreened offers, catalogs, and phone books
  • Help your school make less waste and become more”green”!


Reuse – Use an item in a new way or give it to someone else to use!

  • Get creative!
    • Turn plastic milk jugs into bird feeders.
    • Use both sides of a piece of paper, turn scrap paper into note pads, and use newspaper as recycled gift wrap.
    • Pinterest has a never ending supply of great ideas!
  • Have a garage sale!
  • Post unwanted items on freecycle, local Facebook “For Sale” groups, or sites like craigslist.
  • Donate stuff that is still in good shape!
    • Thrift stores and consignment shops can take a large variety of items (clothes, shoes, toys, books, games, etc.) but check their policies to find out what they can and cannot take. Many locations are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Thrift Stores” and also under “Consignment Service”.
    • Bicycles and bicycle parts can be donated to the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective.
    • Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts a wide variety of building materials, flooring, cabinets, fixtures, toilets, furniture, unopened/full cans of *usable* paint, and more!


Recycle – Turn your old stuff into something new!

Shrink your garbage by recycling!

Recycling reduces waste in our landfills, saves energy and natural resources, and creates jobs. Iowa’s recycling industry generates $2.4 billion annually and supports more than 11,400 jobs.

Whether you have curbside recycling or take your recyclables to a designated drop-off site, remember to follow your city or county’s guidelines. These Expert Recycling Tips can help you avoid “Wishful Recycling”!


Some basic guidelines to follow when recycling your materials include:

  • Cardboard and Chipboard – examples: corrugated boxes, cereal boxes, shoe boxes. Make sure the box is clean of food waste and flattened when recycled.
    • What is it recycled into? Boxes and paper products such as paper bags.
  • Office Paper – examples: computer paper, junk mail pieces, envelopes, colored construction paper. Make sure paper is clean of food waste and other contaminates.
    • What is it recycled into? Notebook paper, toilet paper, tissue paper, & paper towels.
    • Paper that contains a wax coating or crayon needs to be put in the garbage.
  • Newspaper, Magazines, Slick Advertisements – All of these are recyclable as long as the paper is clean.
    • What is it recycled into? Insulation, ceiling tile, animal bedding, & paper products.
  • Metal Cans – examples: tuna can, canned fruits and vegetables, juices & teas in aluminum cans. You do not need to remove the labels unless otherwise noted. Wash inside of can and metal lid and recycle.
    • What is it recycled into? Automobile parts, new cans, & roofing.
  • Clear and Colored Glass – examples: juice and tea bottles, salad dressing bottles, canning jars. Leave the label on, wash inside of jar and then recycle it. If the lid is metal, recycle that with other metals.
    • What is it recycled into? Fiberglass insulation, counter tops, & new bottles.
  • Plastic – examples: milk jug, detergent bottle, water or juice bottle, applesauce cup, food tray. First, identify the number of plastic by looking on the bottom of the container. The number will be found in the center of the recycle symbol. Most Plastics #1-7 are recycled locally. You can leave the label on but wash out the container before recycling.
    • What is it recycled into? Plastic lumber, carpet, clothing, picnic tables, & toys.
    • Although Styrofoam and plastic shopping bags are marked as recyclable, only special programs are able to accept them.
    • If you do not find a recycle symbol and number on a plastic item, it needs to be put in the garbage.


Buy Recycled

Look for products made from recycled material such as stuffed teddy bears, plastic lumber, toilet paper, paper towels, and floor tile made from recycled car tires! The following recycling terms can tell you about the recycled product:

  • Recycled Product: A product made exclusively, or in part, from materials diverted from the waste stream
  • Recycled Content: The portion of a product that is made from recycled materials diverted from the waste stream; usually stated as a percentage by weight
  • Pre-Consumer Waste: Materials generated during manufacturing, such as damaged or obsolete products, overruns and trimmings; materials can be incorporated into the manufacture of new products; does not include materials commonly reused in the original manufacturing process.
  • Post-Consumer Waste: Discarded used consumer items collected for recycling from homes and businesses with the intention of incorporating these materials into new products.


Recycle More through Special Recycling Programs!

Look for ways to recycle odd items that are not typically included in your regular city recycling program,  such as:



What other creative ways can you think up to help shrink your garbage?

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