• Dubuque Area Recycling Network

    A Project of Green Dubuque

  • About DAR3N

    History and Vision


    Recycling and other sustainable practices were a fairly new concept in the early 1990’s, but interest and need for recycling services was swelling rapidly—especially in the Tri-State area where there was limited infrastructure for environmentally sound development.


    The Dubuque Area Recycling Network (DARN) stepped up to both inform a policy direction and to help provide recycling opportunities for the average citizen.


    Four local groups, The Audubon Society, Boy Scout Troop 11, Sierra Society at Hempstead High School and the Dubuque Area Congregations United, collaborated and provided the physical labor necessary to establish a weekly drop off newspaper recycling venue in a semi-trailer on JFK. This small step toward more efficient recycling practices was the bridge needed to advance the launch the first curbside recycling program in Iowa's largest cities.


    As Dubuque moved forward with curbside recycling, DARN volunteering seemed unnecessary for the last 25 years. Dubuque has become a leader in many innovative and best management practices related to sustainability. The community vision was to improve quality of life related to economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy - our triple bottom line,

    However, current economic challenges facing the Dubuque landfill could undermine commitments to help divert valuable materials to beneficial use.


    Our community again has a need for greater citizen engagement to help us continue to become a smarter community and use our resources wisely.

    Vision 2017

    Expansion in cost effective beneficial use diversion programs is an economic necessity and an environmental imperative. The United States is in the grip of financial challenges. Composting, recycling, repair and reuse is one way to expand job creation in local communities.


    "If we are going to take beneficial use diversion from landfilling seriously, we have to start thinking about organic/compostable materials." 

    Max Milinkovich, CEO Full Circle Organics.


    Wasting resources is not sound economics. Over a million dollars of marketable materials and items are buried in the Dubuque landfill every year. This is not sustainable. We need to collaborate to find better ways to divert these materials for economic development and green jobs.


    The new DAR3N is a Green Dubuque project that helps to balance policy objectives with cost-effective measurable targets and timelines. It seeks to speak with a more inclusive voice from supporting businesses, institutions and residents, and to help empower one another to use materials more responsibly from cradle to grave.


    DAR3N will work from a zero waste framework with the belief that the existence of wasting is a systemic problem that can be solved, not a normality. We will help improve citizen convenience to recycle and compost wherever they live, work and play by collaborating with local organizations and businesses with a focus on innovation and actionable data analytics.


    Material targets being considered are:

    • Organic materials, such as food scraps by diverting them to composting or anaerobic digestion;
    • Recyclables by helping to improve the disposal habits of businesses, institutions and residents;
    • Reusable items by improving diversion options for items with marketable value for repair or reuse;
    • Used building materials by helping establish a not for profit enterprise like a ReStore; and,
    • Polluting and hazardous materials by reducing their use in favor of safer materials.

    “The Dubuque Community has the infrastructure in place to meet a progressive Dubuque Metropolitan Solid Waste Agency’s strategic diversion goal of 2% per capita tonnage per year from Dubuque County landfilling, but it will take a broad reaching community effort to achieve this.”

    Scott Dittmer of Dittmer Recycling.


    Among DAR3N’s measurable results being considered are to:

    1. Increase progressive diversion of residential, institutional, and commercial food through Food Rescue to feed hungry people and food residuals through composting by 500 tons per year.

    2. Establish a trained group of twenty young and old volunteers to promote engagement on the “Path to Zero Waste” through community innovative events and social media.
    3. Recognize and increase the number of identified businesses and institutions engaged in significant improved beneficial diversion of their discards by fifty businesses each year.

    4. Develop a partnership campaign to reduce thin plastic checkout bag wasting and pollution by 5% per year.


    “We need to have community engagement to help all of us “Walk the Talk” – to help set goals and be accountable for them.” 

    Sister Michelle Balek, Member of the Dubuque Franciscans


    “If you are not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?”