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Through its Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE), Des Moines-based Recycle Iowa has found buyers for nearly 500 used materials in the past year, diverting approximately 100,000 tons of waste from landfills and saving state businesses about $3.86 million from avoided disposal fees.

The program, established by the state legislature in 1990, is managed by Recycle Iowa at the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) through a partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and the Waste Reduction Center. Ten area resource specialists provide assistance to link suppliers with businesses in need of raw materials.

IWE services, which are free, confidential and non-regulatory, also include a searchable online database of materials, waste management technical assistance and a materials testing service for businesses to make sure recycled-content products fit within their business model. Materials include several types of waste products, such as plastics, paper, and liquid and organic materials, according to IWE.

The Recycle Iowa office at the IDED administers the program and contracts community colleges and government council offices in nine regions to provide localized IWE services.

Funds for the program are generated through a percentage of state tonnage fees. Since the program's inception, more than 5,000 byproducts and services have been matched — equaling more than 720,000 tons of waste — with savings of approximately $20 million in avoided disposal fees. Additionally, IWE says, participating businesses realize savings from avoided purchases, reduction in transportation costs and freed storage space.

According to an IWE spokesman, for materials such as salvageable lumber or computers, the program first will look for markets that would re-use the material “as is,” such as a local school. If discard still is available, then IWE will look for markets that would recycle the material, such as computer recyclers. The group's goal, he says, is to find the highest-value end-market. For more information, visit