Study: Austin needs to pull more recyclables out of waste stream


In the city’s first comprehensive look at how much trash it keeps out of landfills, a new study says that Austin diverted an estimated 42 percent of its waste last year, mostly through recycling and composting.

That puts the city behind its goal of diverting 50 percent of all materials by 2015, which is just one step on the path to the ultimate aim of reaching “zero waste,” or keeping nearly all materials out of landfills, by 2040.

Andrew Dobbs, Central Texas program director for Texas Campaign for the Environment, said he was “dreading a little bit” the release of the study — but the diversion rate wasn’t as low as he feared.

“I think it could have been a lot worse,” Dobbs said. “Knowing what we do about other cities in Texas, (42 percent) indicates we’re already doing some good stuff, that we’ve got some of the basics covered, and now we can reach and do more.”

The city last year released the diversion rate — 38 percent — for its residential customers, which are single-family homes and small multifamily properties.

That number doesn’t include most apartments, condominium complexes or commercial properties, which are typically served by private companies and estimated to generate more than 85 percent of all materials in the city.

To get quantitative information about those properties, the study looked at data provided by licensed private haulers and reports some properties have to submit under a city ordinance that will require all commercial and multifamily properties to recycle by Oct. 1, 2017, among other things. This data was self-reported and incomplete, the study said.

“I’m not 100 percent convinced that those are accurate numbers, but it’s all we have to go by today,” said Gerry Acuna, who chairs the city’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission. “It literally gives us something to strive for, aspire to in the future.”

The study also gathered qualitative information by surveying businesses, sorting samples from facilities that generate a lot of materials and deploying two teams that were charged with observing at least 50 trash and recycling containers per day.

Of those trash receptacles, about 70 percent contained visible recyclables, mostly “cardboard, mixed paper and hard plastics,” the report said.

“Each of these materials are accepted at local recycling facilities serving the Austin area, indicating an opportunity to further educate businesses and multifamily residents about materials accepted at recycling facilities,” the study said.

As of press time, the city had not responded to a list of written questions, including how much it paid CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. for the study.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

East Austin group emerges to help change Confederate school names
East Austin group emerges to help change Confederate school names

Days after the only black member of the Austin school board was criticized for publicly calling out his peers for delaying a vote on changing school names with ties to the Confederacy, more than a dozen parents, educators, lawyers and community leaders have formed a work group to push the changes forward. The group of 15, formed by the East Austin...
12 flu outbreaks reported in Williamson County since Jan. 10
12 flu outbreaks reported in Williamson County since Jan. 10

The Williamson County and Cities Health District has investigated 12 outbreaks of flu this week, according to a news release. Ten of those outbreaks were at long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and two were at day care facilities, according to the release. The first outbreak was Jan. 10 and the last one was reported Monday, said Deb Strahler...
AISD makes this surprise announcement benefiting Garcia boys school
AISD makes this surprise announcement benefiting Garcia boys school

The Austin school district now will offer transportation to any middle school student who wants to attend Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy. The move could boost student enrollment for the school of 400, which is well below capacity. “It’s a different opportunity to get more students in to this amazing school,” said Superintendent...
Deputies: 2 arrested after 3-month-old child, 51 pounds of heroin, found in SUV
Deputies: 2 arrested after 3-month-old child, 51 pounds of heroin, found in SUV

Deputies in Mississippi arrested two women Monday night on suspicion of drug trafficking after authorities said they found 51 pounds of heroin and a 3-month-old child in an SUV the women were driving. A deputy pulled over a Ford SUV on Interstate 20 in Rankin County on Monday night for an unspecified traffic violation. Authorities said that during...
TRAFFIC UPDATE: Lanes cleared on I-35 near Oltorf following crash
TRAFFIC UPDATE: Lanes cleared on I-35 near Oltorf following crash

3:08 p.m. update: All lanes have been cleared, according to city officials. Earlier: A crash on Interstate 35 has blocked two southbound lanes near Woodward Street, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The agency says to expect delays, as traffic is backed up to Holly Street.
More Stories