Austin Resource Recovery


Yesterday, we heard about a new goal set by the federal government: a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030.

One way to waste less food is to compost it – by storing organic material in a bucket, for example, until it can be used to fertilize soil. In 2012, the City of Austin and a local company each started their own composting programs.


According to a new study released by Austin Resource Recovery, almost half of residential trash collected from curbs and going into Austin landfills could have been recycled. The city-commissioned study also found that 46 percent of the residential trash that ends up in the landfill could have been composted.

“Too much paper, too much plastic, too much metals [are] going to the landfill instead of in the blue cart,” says Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery. “So although Austinites believe in recycling and set out their recycling cart with some of their recyclables, we need more recyclables from the household.”

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT

It’s a familiar scenario: you’ve finished a product and are ready to dispose of the packaging. But wait… does it go into the recycling bin? Or the trash can? Recycling is something most of us strive to do. But waste management experts say many of us do it wrong – at least some of the time.

Step 1 to better recycling is NOT putting something in the bin if you're not sure it can be recycled:

"Part of the problem with recycling is if you throw it in with doubt, it could be a contaminate and it can slow down the process in the recycling stream," Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert says.

Flickr user normanack,

The City of Austin wants to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by encouraging residents to compost

Free composting classes are being offered online and throughout Austin. Since the program’s inception in 2010, more than 6,000 Austinites have taken a composting class.

"The City of Austin does not require residents to compost or recycle, but we do encourage people to reduce waste as much as possible," says waste diversion senior planner Sylba Everett. "The smaller the [trash] cart the less you pay on your utility bill. So by encouraging people to recycle and compost as much as possible, they could choose a smaller cart and hopefully save on their bill."

Beginning today, a total of 680 Austin apartment complexes – serving approximately 140,000 households – must offer recycling.

It's the second phase of the City of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance, affecting businesses and multi-family residences, which kicks in today. Here’s who’s affected:

  • Apartments and condominiums with 50 or more dwelling units
  • Commercial offices that are 75,000 square feet or larger

If the film "Trash Dance" has a mantra, it’s simple: Power to the people. Those people and that power, however, don’t conjure up the familiar themes of power through politics but, strangely enough, dance.

And garbage trucks. 

The film follows choreographer Allison Orr’s work with Austin Energy and Solid Waste Services to make meticulously synchronized dance routines featuring everyday utility service vehicles. So it’s power to the people, who give you power and haul your trash.

Taking out the trash is a thing of the past: All Austin restaurants will have to start composting by 2017, and restaurants 5,000 square feet and up only have until 2016. The Austin City Council approved the ordinance change today.

Don’t worry: your favorite restaurant isn’t tearing up the parking lot and turning it into a compost heap. Restaurants will be allowed take their pick of private contractors to pick up their food scraps and haul them off for composting.

Austin’s one of the few cities in Texas where you might start composting to avoid being ostracized by friends.

Whether its groundwater, tap water, urban farming, salamander saving or the bag ban, the city’s got a whole slew of unique, environmentally-friendly idiosyncrasies. Even some of the trucks that haul trash to the landfill are green, running on natural gas.

Austin’s ban on some single-use bags goes into effect in just over three weeks. Today, area businesses will get training on the new bag rules.

The city is holding two training sessions for restaurants, grocery stores and retail stores: one this morning, and another one at 6 p.m.

City of Austin

The brown bin and the blue bin have company: The green bin, for compost.

Austin Resource Recovery customers are familiar with the trash bin (the brown one) and the recycling bin (the blue container). But nearly 8,000 customers are now giving the 96-gallon green bin a tryout, in a pilot program to determine the feasibility of a citywide composting program.

In case you’ve been living under a rock – albeit one nowhere near a compost pile –  composting is the process of turning food scraps and organic, biodegradable refuse into a nutrient-rich soil appropriate for gardening and landscaping.

Photo by Era Sundar/KUT News

Every year Austin adds a new material to its recycling stream. This year it’s aluminum. Tin foil and baking pans can now go in the blue single stream recycling containers for pickup.

The materials collected from recycling bins are sorted, packaged and sold so they can be processed into new materials. The new stream of aluminum waste will be sent out of the country, as are plastics and paper, currently. But the city is trying to develop more local sources for processing recycled waste. Bob Gedert is with Austin Resource Recovery.

Photo courtesy

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) presented their newest draft of a disposable bag ban to the City Council today.

So what’s changed since the proposal was last floated?

ARR director Bob Gedert initially discussed a temporary surcharge  – either 10 cents a bag, or a dollar per transaction – to fund the initial, educational phase of the ordinance. 

But Gedert raised the surcharge proposal only to take it off the table moments later. Citing implementation challenges, he ultimately recommended against the measure, a move Mayor Lee Leffingwell supported. Leffingwell said no fees in the interim period would provide a “safe harbor” for customers, and ensure “people are not left trying to carry 20 cans of peas out in their arms.”

Photo courtesy, Ramin Bahrani

Plans to phase out single-use plastic bags at Austin retailers are still up in the air.

Austin Resource Recovery, the department tasked with drafting an ordinance banning the bags, has drafted and scrapped two separate ordinances in as many months. But with a lull before the department rolls out their third (and presumably final) draft, now is as good a time as any to pin down their previous proposals.

Photo by KUT

When the city polled people online for a name to replace “Solid Waste Services Department”, Austinites came up with some whimsical suggestions: The Ministry of Filth, the Department of Neat and Clean, and Keep Austin Wasted. 

The suggestion with the most votes honored the lead singer of metal rap band Limp Bizkit: the Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts.

Did you really think the city would choose one of those names? Of course you didn’t. Instead it went with this one: Austin Resource Recovery.