Confused about Austin’s composting program? Here’s what you need to know

12:00 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 Lifestyle
About 52,000 Austin homes now have these green composting bins. The city’s curbside composting program is growing and will eventually include all 210,000 homes served by Austin Resource Recovery. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Composting can be a mucky, gross, smelly, decaying mess. You know this if you have a compost pile set up at your house. Sometimes you add too many leftovers and not enough leaves and the pile gets, well, a little out of hand.

Thanks to the city of Austin’s growing curbside composting program, now 52,000 Austin homes are getting familiar with what happens to their food once they dump it. The program started in 2013 in a few pockets of the city and then expanded to 14,000 homes.

This fall, an additional 38,000 homeowners and renters received green bins to start composting, which means food and yard waste can go to a composting facility to be turned into a useful soil amendment rather than going into the landfill, where the food rots and emits greenhouse gasses. Austin is somewhat behind similar cities around the country when it comes to citywide composting. San Francisco implemented it in 2009, Portland in 2011.

How much will it cost you? Once all 190,000 homes that Austin Resource Recovery serves have the curbside composting bins, the city will start charging an additional $4 per month for the service, pending council approval. If you already compost or don’t want the bin, too bad. You’ll still have to pay the extra fee and take the cart. If that feels like an imposition, consider San Francisco, which issues fines if you don’t follow the rules and separate trash from food waste.

The carts get picked up once a week, on the same day as your regular trash collection. Austin’s composting rules are few:

I’m trying to avoid using those plastic compostable bags, but that means I’m dumping spoiled leftovers straight into a green bin. Here’s how I keep it from being the grossest compost bin on the block:

Have more questions? The city has a great FAQ online at austintexas.gov/page/curbside-composting-faq.

CORRECTION: This story originally contained incorrect information on the use of compostable bags in the bin. The city does allow BPI-certified compostable bags in the bin.

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