Heather Kennedy/Flickr

There are lots of things we power with batteries these days, from interactive children's books that use tiny batteries, to toothbrushes that run on bigger batteries, to our mobile devices with their rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

But when a battery's life ends, we're faced with the question of what to do with it. Right now, Austinites can drop off their used batteries at any of the city's library branches to be recycled. But what happens to those batteries after they're dropped off? 

City of Austin

One of the city's former landfills in South East Austin is about to get a facelift. The city will soon transform the area into an industrial hub focused exclusively on the recycling and reuse industries.

The goal is to attract companies like Mexico-based Grupo Simplex.

Have you ever wondered about if you could recycle your paper coffee cup? Or if the cap from that Topo Chico you had would gum up the recycling sorter? Have you wondered the fate of that plastic bag you filled with recyclables and tossed into the blue bin with trepidation? 

Well, today was your lucky day, Internet user. 

This morning Austin Resource Recovery took to Reddit for an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) to answer Austinites' burning recycling questions — offering a glimpse of a possibly forthcoming composting program and tips on what exactly to do with all those plastic bags you've been hoarding. Check out the highlights below.


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.”


As the holidays come to an end, it's likely that old tannenbaum might be looking a little tired. But there are plenty of options to help put that old evergreen to use.

This year, Austinites can drop off their Christmas tree between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the new location, 2304 Rollingwood Dr., Austin, TX, on the following days:

Filipa Rodrigues, KUT

You’ve opened all the gifts and enjoyed a nice big meal. Now, you’re surrounded by mountains of wrapping paper and piles of disposable dinnerware.

But don’t grab the trash bags just yet. Here are some tips for getting more of that waste into the recycling bin this holiday season.

"Tissue paper is definitely recyclable," Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert says.

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.

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

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.

As we wrap up the holiday season, the Christmas decorations will soon head to into storage.

The City of Austin is encouraging residents to recycle their live Christmas trees. If you have curbside collection, just put the tree there by 6:30 a.m. on your trash day. Make sure all decorations are removed. Trees over six feet should be cut in half.

If you live in an apartment or somewhere else where you don’t get curbside collection, you can drop trees off at Zilker Park this weekend or next weekend.

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.

KUT News

New recycling rules, aiming to divert 90 percent of waste from Austin landfills by 2040, go into effect today.

The new ordinance requires more office buildings and apartments to provide recycling opportunities to employees and tenants. Apartments with 75 or more units, and commercial buildings 100,000 square feet and larger, now have to offer recycling in addition to waste disposal.

Each year, this ordinance will tighten to include smaller properties. By October 2013 it will encompass apartments with 50 or more units, and commercial properties of 75,000 square feet and larger. By 2014, it will include apartments with 26 or more units and properties 50,000 square feet and up.

Balcones Recycling

Austin is another step closer to its goal of reaching Zero Waste by 2040, with the opening of a new facility to handle over half the city’s recyclables.  

Austin has banned the use of single-use shopping bags, allowed residents to opt out of excessive mailing programs, and tried to educate the youth. And now, starting in October, 60 percent of Austin’s recycling will be funneled through Balcones Resources.

In the spring of 2011, the Austin City Council unanimously agreed to sign a 20-year deal with Balcones Resources to sort, bundle and sell 60 percent of Austin’s recyclables at its newly-built plant in northast Austin.

The new $25 million facility is a single-stream recycling center – which means it sorts and processes all the various recyclables (paper, glass and plastic) commingling in Austin Resource Recovery bins. Balcones says the center will be capable of processing 25 tons of single-stream recyclables.

Photo by

Spontaneous combustion is real, at least when it comes to compost heaps.

Large commercial compost heaps of over 12 feet tall can become dangerous if not properly maintained, says Lauren Hammond, spokesperson for Austin's solid waste services department.

She says, the conditions have to be "just right" for a pile to self-ignite.

The record triple digit heat we've been experiencing can raise the temperature of a compost pile above 160 degrees. Mix that with the various gasses that are released from decomposition and the abundance of dry organic material, and you could have a real fire hazard on your hands.

Though most residential compost piles are no where near 12 feet tall, Hammond says, they still need to be maintained and monitored weekly.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Computer recycling in Texas almost doubled in 2010 compared the year prior, according to the state's environmental regulator. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 24.3 million pounds of old hard drives, motherboards and various other computer parts were diverted away from landfills last year.

Image courtesy cote

If you were asked which Central Texas city was offers the best recycling service, what would your answer be? If you answered Austin, then you could be wrong.

As of February 1st, San Marcos residents living in multifamily units will become the first in Central Texas  to receive a single-stream recycling service. Single-stream recycling allows residents to mix recyclable paper, aluminum cans, glass and plastic in one 90-gallon bin.  Each apartment unit in San Marcos will be billed an extra $5.53 a month for the weekly service.

Recycling container
Image courtesy Allison Allison

The southwest Austin exurb of Wimberley, known for its active artistic community, is going to make it easier for people and businesses to reduce landfill waste.

In a news release issued this afternoon, the City of Wimberly said it's switching to a single stream recycling program, allowing both residents and businesses to throw all their recyclables into a single container without having to sort them first.  It's part of Wimberly's three-year contract extension with Texas Disposal Services.

Photo by KUT News.

Texas House District 48 Race Still in Limbo

Democratic Incumbent Donna Howard maintains her position by only 15 votes.  Many wonder when or if her Republican challenger Dan Neil will ask for a recount.  Neil released a comment on his Facebook last night: