How One Iowa University is Handling Waste

As interest in economically efficient and holistic approaches to waste management have seen an uptick in the past decade, policy makers are taking a closer look at programs whose underlying driver follows the priority sequence of the waste management hierarchy – reducing, reusing and then recycling.  The result of this increased interest has accelerated national exposure of these types of programs including the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE).  This unique-to-Iowa program and the program’s successes was recently the subject of an article by the Environmental and Energy Study institute (EESI.)  EESI is a 501(c) (3) non-profit.  EESI was founded in 1984 by a bipartisan group of members of congress to inform the debate on energy and environmental policy. 


Read EESI’s article on IWE and the successful matches made of paper towel dispensers.

Vermeer Storage Unit

This photo shows the large portable storage unit offered by Vermeer Corporation.


Late last fall, Iowa DNR Comprehensive Planning/Solid Waste Environmental Management Systems Program Manager Laurie Rasmus received an unusual call from Vermeer Corporation in Pella, IA.

EHS Manager Stephen Kelly offered that his company would like to give away a large portable building suitable for household hazardous materials storage to another entity in Iowa that could use it for its intended purpose. Vermeer had purchased the unit after their Eco Center (on-site hazardous materials facility) was destroyed by an EF3 tornado in July of 2018. “As production resumed operations after the tornado, we were again generating waste, and needed to come up with a temporary storage option while we waited for our new Eco Center to be built,” explains Kelly. He had already reached out to two area landfills, but both thought the container, which has a capacity of ninety-six 55-gallon drums, was too large for their needs. Rasmus notified the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE) for assistance in finding a reuse opportunity for the structure.

Iowa Waste Exchange Area 5 Resource Specialist Julie Plummer, who recently re-located her office to the Waste Commission of Scott County’s Scott Area Landfill, quickly alerted Waste Commission Director Kathy Morris and Landfill Operations Manager Brian Seals that the building was available. Within less than an hour, a plan for reusing the storage container had developed, and the Waste Commission of Scott County and Vermeer were discussing overall dimensions and lifting instructions in order to coordinate transport to eastern Iowa. “Our current storage area does not always meet demand and is in need of repair,” said Brian Seals. “My plan is to use part of the structure to house materials collected from residents under our Household Hazardous Materials program, and the other part will hold fluids like oil that we use in our own operations equipment. This is a great and unexpected upgrade for our facility.”

“The only small stumbling block in re-purposing the large building turned out to be finding a specialized transportation company with the trailer setup necessary to transport it 150 miles to the Scott Area Landfill,” notes IWE’s Plummer. “Vermeer’s logistics team stepped right up to assist the Waste Commission in overcoming this obstacle too. It was such a pleasure to work with Vermeer, and watch as they turned their tornado misfortune into this generous example of environmental stewardship.”

Vermeer’s Stephen Kelly is happy with the outcome. “My thanks to the Iowa Waste Exchange for facilitating this. I am so glad the Waste Commission of Scott County is able to put the building to good use. I was really hoping that we would be able to identify a beneficial use like this for the storage container, and that it could continue to be used to help minimize or prevent negative environmental impact in our state.”

The Vermeer team strives to continually improve processes, programs and systems to identify, implement and measure improvements in resource efficiency and waste reduction. The company views environmental stewardship as one additional reason to operate as efficiently as possible while doing more for others. Important work like waste management is one example of how the Vermeer team helps keep team members safe while protecting the environments they call home.

IWE Success Stories