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

Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016
Georgetown police: Man has harassed Sun City residents since 2016

Georgetown police are searching for a man who has been harassing Sun City residents for more than two years, even walking into their homes at night and standing at the foot of their beds until they wake up, a police spokesman said. Sun City is a retirement community with several thousand homes in Georgetown. The man has been involved in at least 50...
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge
Former MLB athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber arrested in Austin on DWI charge

Former Major League Baseball athlete Kelly Wayne Gruber was arrested in Austin on a DWI charge Saturday, records show. Gruber, 56, was a two-time All-Star while playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1984 to 1992. As a teenager, Gruber played baseball for Westlake High School.  An Austin officer pulled Gruber over after noticing...
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion
Police: Man attacked, cut person he thought was behind home invasion

An Austin man is accused of cutting an apartment resident with a machete because he thought the victim was involved in a home invasion, according to an arrest affidavit released this week. Samuel Diaz-Parra, 58, was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail. The attack happened...
Temple physician arrested for child porn, Texas Medical Board says

TEMPLE Texas Medical Board: Physician arrested for child porn The Texas Medical Board on Monday suspended the license of Temple physician John Middlemiss Palmer after he was arrested on child porn charges. “The Board panel found that on or about April 18, 2018, Dr. Palmer was charged with possession of child pornography by the Texas Attorney...
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer
Jury weighs murder charge in Austin stabbing death of Daniel Spencer

A Travis County jury began deliberating Monday evening in the murder trial of 67-year-old James Robert Miller Jr., who is accused of fatally stabbing 32-year-old Daniel Spencer in September 2015. Miller’s attorney says it was self-defense. Spencer was killed at his home early on the morning of Sept. 21, after inviting Miller to his house to play...
More Stories