Iowa Army Ammunition Plant gets greener with completion of $7.2M Centralized Solid Waste Processing Facility

·4 min read

MIDDLETOWN — The Iowa Army Ammunition Plant and American Ordnance on Thursday celebrated the completion of the Middletown campus's $7.2 million recycling center that will divert waste from local landfills and help give new life to would-be waste.

The 36,841-square-foot Centralized Solid Waste Processing Facility, expected to be fully operational within the next 30 days, will replace the IAAAP's outdated recycling facility. It also comes with the ability to recycle styrofoam.

"We are increasing the end product that we do here," IAAAP Environmental Coordinator Randy Doyle said ahead of the facility's ribbon-cutting ceremony. "For instance, styrofoam. We have one production line that generates almost 50 tons of styrofoam a year. That used to go to the landfill."

Now, he said, styrofoam that is processed there using the yet-to-arrive foam compressor will be shipped out to be used to make products such as picture frames, toilet seats, beanbag chairs, architecture moldings and yogurt cups.

"It's very impressive to see their leadership and be more sustainable and have an eye toward recycling their own product," said Burlington City Manager Chad Bird after he and Des Moines County Regional Solid Waste Commission Executive Director Chris Ball examined compressed styrofoam samples. "We don't have a process (for styrofoam) in the county. Styrofoam is kind of the forgotten child in the recycling cycle because it's so hard to handle and deal with and equipment's expensive, so it's nice to have somebody here now local that's dealing with styrofoam."

In addition to styrofoam recycling, the facility also will handle paper and cardboard, plastics, inert ammunition demilitarization, e-waste processing, operational security paper shredding, wood shredding and recycling and the repurposing of manufactured items.

Ball said he is in early discussions with IAAAP about a partnership that would allow the commission to utilize what the facility has to offer.

Also attending the event were representatives from the Greater Burlington Partnership, Southeastern Community College and the Burlington School District. Doyle said the IAAAP intends to work with commercial businesses and others in the community to take on off-site recyclable materials.

"We want to bring resources in here and capture them so they don't end up in a landfill somewhere, and that's going to be a community effort," Doyle said.

Doyle has been working on plans for the new facility since 2018. It was granted congressional appropriations the following year.

"Our federal government is really committed to taking care of our nation's resources," Doyle said. "We have very stringent diversion goals from the landfill, so this is kind of our keystone project to maximize our diversion rates from the landfill. What that means is stuff that doesn't need to go to the landfill that has another life somewhere is to process it through here and get it to another life."

A total of 784,976 pounds of waste materials were recycled in 2021 at the old facility, which lacks sufficient heat and water, as well as the newly purchased metal crusher set up inside the new building.

"The metal crusher down here at the end is a pretty big deal," said general engineer Samie Koberg. "That's really exciting for us here to have that ability now."

Still, between 2020 and 2021, 1.3 million pounds of metal has been recycled there in the past two years.

Doyle is hopeful the new facility will help IAAAP move closer to its net zero landfill goal.

Bryan Bross, vice president of Klingner and Associates, the architect firm for the new facility, said 30 employees, eight departments and four offices were involved in the project and spent a total of 3,600 man-hours on it.

Bi-State Contracting was the general contractor, and more than 30 subcontractors were utilized for the project.

"It's going to be a wonderful facility for the employees to work out of and it's going to last for years and years," Bi-State project coordinator Doug Baird said.

More: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst touts need for strong military after touring Iowa Army Ammunition Plant

Doyle and IAAAP Commander Lt. Col. Jason Crist said the new facility is part of a 15-year modernization plan being rolled out by the Army at large.

"What this plant belongs to is referred to the Organic Industrial Base," Crist said. "Collectively, we are branching out and seeing what we can do in the next 15 years on how do we modernize from 1940s era, 1950s equipment into a streamlined and modernized transformative working environment meeting our needs."

Crist, who, along with his wife, is a member of the Restoration Advisory Board, through which community and government agency representatives exchange information about and review progress of IAAAP's environmental restoration program, said the Army has been more environmentally conscious in terms of both what's being produced and production methods, as well as workforce safety.

"We are not sacrificing the environment for munitions production," Crist said. "Our efforts are in parallel and in sync to do it better, do it safer and ensure we not making the mistakes of previous generations. We're complying with sciences."

Future projects on the docket for IAAAP include new metrology and chemistry labs and a long-range precision artillery production facility.

Michaele Niehaus covers business, development, environment and agriculture for The Hawk Eye. She can be reached at mniehaus@thehawkeye.com.

This article originally appeared on The Hawk Eye: IAAAP marks completion of $7.2M recycling facility