Zero Waste

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.

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."

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 Bag Ordinance goes into effect soon. Starting March 1, the majority of Austin businesses will stop providing single-use paper and plastic bags. That’s because the City of Austin has a goal of zero waste by the year 2040. This measure is among the first steps toward that goal. Businesses and customers alike are already making some adjustments.

Confused about Austin’s coming bag ban? You’re not alone.

Austin Resource Recovery, tasked with reaching the city’s zero waste by 2040, is hosting carryout bag training sessions for local businesses at the Austin City Hall this morning.

The training is designed prepare businesses for the plastic bag ban that takes effect in March 2013.

Originally, the ban barred the use of most single use paper and plastic bags, but late last week the City Council approved adding some exemptions. Now, restaurants will largely be exempt.

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.

recycling plant
Photo by KUT News.

Give Your Input on Trash & Recycling

The City of Austin’s inviting people to a workshop tonight to talk trash and recycling.  The city’s looking for input on its Solid Waste Management Master Plan.  That plan outlines the programs, infrastructure, staffing, and funding needed for Austin to reach zero waste by 2040, the city’s goal to drastically reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.  Tonight’s workshop is from 6:30 to 8 at Fiesta Gardens.