Environmental Practices

Serving & Protecting Central Iowa

Opened in 1972, Metro Park East Landfill sits on more than 1,800 acres of land, with only 500 acres used for landfill space. The largest landfill in the state, Metro Park East receives approximately 18 percent of Iowa's waste annually. Unlike dumps, Metro Park East is a Subtitle D or Modern Landfill, which is designed and engineered to ensure compliance with federal regulations and protect the environment from garbage contaminants.

Air, Water & Soil Quality

Being compliant and protecting the environment is the only way we operate. The entire landfill is made up into areas or "cells." Each of these cells is constructed to protect the environment from the first day garbage is compacted to decades after it's been closed.

Construction & Daily Operations

  • Composite Liner - A flexible membrane (geomembrane) overlays two feet of compacted clay soil lining the bottom and sides of the landfill. This design element protects groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate, created by rain percolating through the waste in the landfill.
  • Collecting Leachate - Using a piping system on top of the composite liner, this system captures the leachate from the landfill. The leachate is then sprayed onto the landfill area to accelerate the garbage breaking down.
  • Air Space & Quality - After garbage is deposited in the landfill, it is compacted. This maximizes the life of the landfill by increasing air space. At the end of every working day, the landfill is covered with tarps, a spray cover or soil. The "daily cover" helps control odor, litter, public health problems and animal scavenging.
  • Monitoring Groundwater - Wells are used to monitor groundwater and regular testing takes place to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill cell.
  • Capturing Landfill Gas - Our landfill cells collect the methane gas that is generated from garbage breaking down. By partnering with MidAmerican Energy and Waste Management, this landfill gas is converted into electricity and powers 11,000 homes annually. Most of the methane generated is from the landfill cell that closed in 2007.
  • Closure & Post-Closure Care - Termed closure and post-closure care requirements, it's a retirement fund for each landfill cell. When the cell is full, it's capped to trap all the garbage in. The cell continues to generate landfill gas, leachate continues to flow and groundwater still requires monitoring. To ensure financial assurance to the communities it serves, landfills are required to set aside dollars every year from the day the landfill cell is constructed.

Life Expectancy of the Landfill

Metro Park East has adequate space with the existing cell and ones planned for the future to meet Central Iowa's projected needs well into the 21st century. The life of the landfill continues to extend as residents and businesses work together to reduce waste and increase recycling efforts.

State Bans

State law bans the following items from all Iowa landfills: car batteries, waste oils, tires and free liquids. Metro Park East does accept many of these banned items, but those items are not disposed of in the landfill. They are recycled. For example, yard waste is turned into compost and used on the farmland acres at Metro Park East. Tires are recycled at Liberty Tire in Des Moines. Residents are encouraged to take other items to the Metro Hazardous Waste Drop-Off or use our Recycling Guide to find safe, smart recycling options.