A DAY IN THE LIFE – Recycling education coordinator

T-R PHOTOS BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Nancy Mach’s mission is to help people become good stewards of the earth. Since November 2018, she’s been employed as the recycling education coordinator at Solid Waste Management/Marshall County Landfill, 2313 Marshalltown Blvd.

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series spotlighting various professionals in our community, highlighting the impact of their work. Have an idea for the series? Email sjordan@timesrepublican.com.

Nancy Mach’s mission is to help people become good stewards of the earth. Since November 2018, she’s been employed as the recycling education coordinator at Solid Waste Management/Marshall County Landfill, 2313 Marshalltown Blvd.

“My goal in this position is to help people change the way they think about garbage,” Mach said. “Marshalltown is fortunate to have a landfill where the focus of the supervisors and the staff is to maintain a clean and safe environment that maximizes the utilization of our space and resources. We need the community’s help with this by focusing on reducing, reusing, recycling and refusing.”

A native of small-town Arizona, she moved to Marshalltown with her family in 2013.

“I have loved Marshalltown from the start. I am in awe of the sense of community and the forward thinking of the town leadership,” she said.

Mach said the operation is a team effort. Left to right: Brett Weeden, Jeff Duffy, Mach and Matt Erwin.

Mach focuses on outreach, namely, going into the schools, talking to local businesses and service clubs — educating them about the types of items that the landfill takes and what should instead be recycled.

“When I work with little kids, I like to talk about why we want to save our earth, to get them motivated and excited about where they live and taking care of it, so it comes naturally to recycle later.”

Businesses may drop off their recyclables at MIW (Mid-Iowa Workshops), 909 S. 14th Ave. Everyone else may drop things off at 12th Street Recycling, 1003 S. 12th St. Ultimately, all recyclables get processed through MIW.

“The landfill follows strict guidelines on how we process the trash and when we fill a cell, we have to build a new one and so on. We want to make sure we get the most years out of what we have and that means reducing the amount that ends up here,” Mach said.

The landfill has three cells. Mach said in order to create one, 10 acres of land is dug out, then the space is lined with clay and leachate liner, then a plastic material. It must pass inspection by the Department of Natural Resources.

“She’s been very proactive and gone to different businesses to help improve their recycling outreach,” General Foreman Brett Weeden said.

Before the 2018 tornado, 135 tons were brought to the landfill each day. That figure is now 190 tons per day.

“At the height (of tornado damages) it was 280 tons that came in each day,” Mach said.

In addition to being the recycling education coordinator, Mach supervises the household hazardous materials end of the business, has front desk duties, writes grants, and more.

“I think people think the landfill is dirty and nasty, but I want when they come out to see a smiling face and a helping hand. We work really hard to make sure it stays as clean as possible,” she said.

While haulers bring waste to the landfill, individuals can as well: trash, scrap metal, appliances, propane cylinders and more (fees vary). Mach said it is important that folks check in with someone at the office before proceeding to dump materials. When recyclable items are detected, Mach encourages people to take them elsewhere.

“If things including glass, tin, aluminum, paper and cardboard come to us contaminated — mixed with the other garbage — we have to take it to the landfill,” she said. “That’s why we want people to stop in at the office first, so we can have them referred to 12th Street Recycling or put metal in our pile for scrap metal.”

Mach said the tornado created a need the landfill hadn’t been prepared for.

“With the tornado, we saw a need that we didn’t have before — with discarded construction materials — but there is no outlet for material that is still usable but needs to be gotten rid of off-site, so we’re working on that so it doesn’t end up here,” she said. “Some examples of that would be roofing shingles, 2×4 pieces of wood and concrete.”

Passion is what keeps her driven.

“I am an all in person, especially if it is something I care about. I am passionate about kindness. I believe everyone has an interesting story; we are all made up of experiences that have shaped us into what we are … Even the smallest gesture of kindness toward people or the planet can have a ripple effect lasting for generations,” Mach said.

For more information, Mach may be reached at 641-752-0646.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or

sjordan@timesrepublican.com

This story was updated to reflect the Marshalltown Salvation Army Thrift Store does not accept clothing scraps for recycling purposes.