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Maryland company asks for Iowa City’s trash

By Brian Scott, CBS 2 & Fox 28 News

IOWA CITY (CBS2/FOX28) – It’s like clockwork every day, all day long at the Iowa City Landfill: the trash comes in and never comes back out. Trucks leave the garbage to decompose in the Earth indefinitely.

Most give little thought to the process or what’s being thrown out, but one company is giving it a lot of thought, and now they believe your trash could be someone else’s…fuel.

“This is an approved plan for taking municipal solid wastes and converting them into bio fuels,” said Steve Gerber, Vice President of Fiberight Industries, as he presented their Environmental Protection Agency approval to the Iowa City City Council Tuesday night (8/22).

Fiberight is a company from Maryland that’s slowly expanding out into Iowa. First and foremost, they say they have plans to build a $59.9 million dollar biorefinary plant in Blairstown, but they also have interest in Iowa City, and more so, Iowa City’s trash.

“Our process recovers your garbage, and we take that and from the organics we extract sugars and from that we can create ethanol,” said Gerber.

Gerber says more than 50% of everything that goes into a landfill is organic material; organic material with the capacity to become ethanol.

So, his company wants to work with the city to turn their trashed organics into the next-gen fuel. They’re asking the City Council to lease 3 acres of landfill for them to use the incoming trash at their Blairstown plant.

The trash is money for the company, but they say there are serious benefits for the city as well. Along with pulling out organics, the company also sifts out recyclables and methane gas; both of which can go back to the community for other purposes.

In the end, they estimate the project would reduce trash coming into the landfill by about 80% and drastically extend the life of the property. Plus, Gerber told the council the plan would immediately create 15 to 20 jobs in the city.

“It sounds potentially very exciting to me,” said Councilman Jim Throgmorton on Tuesday night.

The plan is still in its infancy as far as Iowa City is concerned. At this point the Council is just hearing about it and, while they say they’re interested, they need a lot more information before any formal partnership comes together.

Still, both sides say it’s an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of technology and environmentalism that was once only dreamt of.

“The US disposes of 175 million tons of municipal solid waste per year, that’s the equivalent for us, that would be 30 billion gallons of ethanol,” said Gerber.

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