Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

Sustainable Materials Management – Vision for Iowa

Welcome to the Sustainable Materials Management – Vision for Iowa website! The webpages contained herein provides background of Iowa’s current integrated solid waste management and how sustainable materials management (SMM) takes a new approach for providing improved public health and environmental protection through a more complete assessment of solid waste management and setting priorities.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has initiated a process to identify a preferred vision for Iowa as it relates to living sustainably through improved solid waste management policy and programs. The pages of this website provide background information and updates as the process moves forward. It also provides for participation through surveys and comments as we seek to reduce waste and its impact on our air, water and land.

Thank you for taking an interest in the Sustainable Materials Management – Vision for Iowa.

DNR Contact
Tom Anderson

SMM Update Meeting on May 29, 2024

DNR hosted a virtual meeting on May 29, 2024 to present a summary of the 2022 Recovery Rate Report for Deposit Beverage Containers and a study performed by SCS Engineers that surveyed Iowa recycling facilities in order to develop a better understanding of existing programs and infrastructure.

Recycling Infrastructure Inventory Presentation

Recovery Rate Report for Deposit Beverage Containers Presentation

2022 Recover Rate Report for Deposit Beverage Containers

Moving the Vision Forward

SMM – Moving the Vision Forward continues the stakeholder driven initiative to rethink Iowa’s integrated solid waste management system, in place for over 35 years. SMM represents a change in how our society thinks about the use of natural resources, their impacts and environmental protection.


Build upon the shared stakeholder vision identified in the SMM Phase I effort to direct the State of Iowa to transition from its present solid waste management policies and infrastructure to a comprehensive SMM system to better protect public health and safety and the environment.


Establish a clear direction for implementing an SMM system with immediate, medium and long-term strategies


  • Establish SMM priorities
  • Evaluate the applicability to Iowa of SMM implementation processes in other states
  • Apply life cycle analysis (LCA) to selected materials
  • Recommend strategies to implement SMM policies, programs, facilities, funding measures, and progress metrics


  • Prioritize material categories
  • Select specific material types within each category
  • Define specific strategies
    • Legislation
    • Policies
    • Programs
    • Infrastructure
    • Funding mechanism
  • Identify implementation timeline, responsible party, and performance metrics

“Sustainable materials management is an approach to using and reusing materials most productively throughout their entire life cycles” (EPA).

SMM's Life-cycle Perspective


Current Rules & Regulations

3-1 Iowa Code

3-2 Iowa Administrative Rules

1 Background Information

Prior to 1975, there were thousands of public and private dumps located throughout Iowa that allowed open burning and burial of waste, including hazardous waste. Federal regulations promulgated in the 1970s and adopted by the state, required these sites to be replaced with permitted sanitary landfills as a means of protecting human health, safety and welfare and the environment.

The Groundwater Protection Act passed by the Iowa Legislature in 1987 addressed numerous groundwater contamination threats. To promote the goals of protecting the health, safety and welfare of Iowans and the protection of the environment, a hierarchy of preferred waste management actions was established as part of the solid waste management policy of the state. In response to changing solid waste streams and new technologies, the waste management hierarchy (455B.301A) was amended to:

  1. Volume reduction at the source
  2. Recycling and reuse
  3. Waste conversion technologies
  4. Combustion with energy recovery
  5. Other approved techniques of solid waste management including but not limited to combustion for waste disposal and disposal in sanitary landfills

Following passage of the Groundwater Protection Act, the 1989 Waste Reduction and Recycling Act was signed into law establishing landfill reduction goals of 25% and 50% (455D.3), among other solid waste management related requirements.

Both the Groundwater Protection Act and the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act focus on managing solid waste at the point of disposal following the waste management hierarchy. Measuring landfill reduction goals as well as measuring the success of waste management programs is based on the weight of solid waste being landfilled. While this is an easy to obtain measure, as every landfill employs scales to weigh incoming waste, weight does not provide an accurate measure and the waste management hierarchy does not always align with the greatest protection of human health or the environment.

Changing waste streams and changing technologies have created the need and opportunity to rethink solid waste management policy and priorities. Unlike the current system of measuring the weight of materials at the point of disposal, a new method to measure impacts to human health and the environment, sustainable materials management considers these impacts at each stage of a product's life, beginning with raw material extraction through manufacturing, distribution, use and end of life management.

The US Environmental Protection Agency endorses sustainable materials management as a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire life cycles. Several states have implemented or are in the process of implementing sustainable materials management as their solid waste management policy. Iowa DNR is currently investigating the applicability of sustainable materials management for updating state law, policy and programs.

3 Think Tank

The initial step of developing a sustainable materials management system for Iowa involved convening a meeting with stakeholders to develop an overarching vision for the state as it relates to protecting human health and the environment through effective and efficient use of natural resources throughout the life cycle of consumer products.

SMM Vision for Iowa Think Tank Report

4 Benchmarking

A comparison of Iowa's existing solid waste management laws, policy and programs to those of other states that are in some stage of implementing sustainable materials management as their guiding principles.

Benchmarking of Sustainable Materials Management Policies & Programs Report

5 Vision for Iowa Final Report

Three visioning meetings were held over the summer with a broad set of stakeholders to gather input employing a scenario based, planning methodology to explore future directions and implications. The SMM-Vision for Iowa report provides outcomes of the planning process and reflects support to develop a clear vision for moving towards a preferred future with sustainable materials management. Work is currently underway on next steps, including a public awareness/opinion survey, a communications plan, and a request for proposals for Phase 2 of the SMM initiative. It is envisioned that Phase 2 will include, but not be limited to, identification of priorities, action and strategy development, timeline, and responsible parties to develop a roadmap for transitioning to sustainable materials management.

Vision for Iowa Final Report