Jan 08, 2021 - 02:25 pm CST

By: Keri Greenwalt 

Happy New Year, Austinites! Thanks for your patience and understanding of the ever-changing situation created by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Since March 2020, there have been several changes to Austin Resource Recovery services and facilities and we’d like to ensure you have the latest, most up-to-date information on each of your services and explain why those changes took place. 

Although many of our services are contactless, adhering to social distancing guidelines was not the only driving force behind the service change decisions we were forced to make. Like many other essential services, Austin Resource Recovery has been experiencing staffing and other resource shortages.  

We have added multiple safety measures to keep our operations staff safe and healthy, but we have still struggled with having enough staff to provide all of our usual services. Even prior to the pandemic, the United States has been experiencing a shortage of solid waste service drivers. In fact, the nation has been facing the highest shortage of truck drivers in over a decade and, when it comes to solid waste, it can be attributed to the level of danger in the occupation, the increased demand for these services (due to industry growth) and low participation of women in the industry. This already existing shortage, paired with additional challenges presented by COVID-19, (like staff being out on leave or vacating positions for other CDL positions offering large bonuses and/or higher salaries, and increased volumes of material being produced by Austinites at home), forced the temporary suspension of some non-essential services so resources could be dedicated to fulfilling essential services. 

In addition, Austin Resource Recovery struggled to have enough staff in fleet services that could work on downed vehicles, so we were sometimes short on equipment even if drivers were available to fulfill services.    

Here is a status update for Austin Resource Recovery’s services and facilities. 

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center is temporarily closed 

In response to the increasing concerns of COVID-19, and for the safety of our staff and residents, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center is closed to the public and dropoffs are no longer accepted at this time. However, Austin-Travis County residents can schedule contactless pick-up of household hazardous waste from their home for safe disposal. Items for reuse or recycling cannot be picked up at this time and we ask that you hold onto those items if you can or use our What Do I Do With... tool to find other zero waste options.  

The recent closure of this facility began on December 24, with the escalation to COVID-19 community risk Stage 5 in Austin-Travis County. The guidelines associated with this risk stage suggest business should be conducted through contactless options only, and that gatherings with anyone outside of the household should be avoided, making it impossible for the facility to remain safely open. Previous to the December 24 closure, the facility was operating at a limited capacity, by appointment only. 

Large brush and bulk collections are operating on regular schedules 

For part of 2020, twice annual large brush and bulk collection services were temporarily suspended. Both services are now operating on regular schedules and curbside customers can check their upcoming collection dates in the Austin Recycles mobile app or by entering their address in the My Schedule tool and scrolling through the calendar months until the collections appear. 

Street sweeping services are currently operating behind schedule 

Residential street sweeping services were also suspended for part of last year. Although street sweeping has been reinstated, the services are operating behind schedule as there is a continued need to dedicate resources to other areas. We appreciate your continued patience and will service all residential areas as soon as possible.  

The Curbside Composting Program is expanding to all curbside customers in February 

In February, the final expansion of curbside composting, to approximately 55,000 additional Austin households, will begin. Currently, about 152,000 homes receive this service. This final expansion will provide the service to all remaining Austin Resource Recovery customers after a four-year phased in approach that began in 2017. This year, in order to adhere to COVID-19 safety regulations, we will hold a virtual town hall on January 28 and will delay the opportunity to distribute free kitchen collectors and compostable bags until it can be done safely for both customers and staff. We will keep customers informed of any future plans to distribute free kitchen collectors, but encourage them to use reusable containers, coffee cans or paper bags for collecting food scraps in the meantime. See our curbside composting guide for tips and additional information. This expansion was previously scheduled to take place in 2020 but was delayed slightly due to COVID-19.  

Recycling, composting (or yard trimmings), trash and on-call clothing and housewares collection services remain on regular schedules 

While many municipalities throughout the country and the state of Texas have suspended recycling services due to COVID-19, Austin Resource Recovery feels fortunate that its recyclingcomposting/yard trimmings and on-call clothing and housewares collections have remained in service throughout the pandemic. There were times when resources had to be diverted from other areas to make this possible. 

Extra trash fees were temporarily waived for several months, but the fees were reinstated as usual in September 2020. 

Stay connected with us 

Connect with us to ensure you are always in the know about your Austin Resource Recovery services: 

  • Download the Austin Recycles app on your mobile device or use the My Schedule tool on our website to sign up for reminders for all of your services. Doing so will also ensure you receive any important service changes  related to COVID-19 or otherwise.  

  • Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates on services, events and the latest zero waste news and tips. We send only one email a month and we never share your information. 

  • Follow us on Facebook to see COVID-19 updates, news about zero waste and tips to help reduce waste in your life. 

  • If you have questions related to Austin Resource Recovery or zero waste, feel free to email us at daretogozero@austinrecycles.com

  • If you’d like to get more involved, consider becoming a zero waste block leader

We thank you for your patience during these challenging times, we thank our essential workers for all of their hard work and sacrifice, and we hope for better times to come in 2021. 

Jan 06, 2021 - 11:05 pm CST

By: Max McCready

re:3D co-founders Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler met while working as contractors for NASA, helping communities in need through Engineers Without Borders. While traveling with the program, they met aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas, but limited access to affordable materials or startup funds. To empower these underserved communities worldwide, Snabes and Fielder founded re:3D in 2013, creating affordable, large-scale 3D printers for under 10 percent the cost of its competitors.

Fast forward a few years and in 2018, Snabes and Fiedler entered and won the [RE]verse Pitch Competition, a social entrepreneurship competition hosted by the City of Austin and community partners. But what was their winning idea? Using recycled plastic from local identification card manufacturer HID Global to create furniture.

After winning [RE]Verse Pitch, Snabes and Fiedler used the prize money to buy a new, industrial plastic grinder known as Gigabot X for re:3D. At the same time, they struck up a partnership with William Stockton, Vice President of Retail for Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore and 2019 [RE]Verse Pitch Competition judge, and were able to install their grinder at the ReStore and started to build their line of 3D printed furniture.

Two years after re:3D’s [RE]verse Pitch victory, they and ReStore released their line of printed furniture which included benches, chairs and coffee tables. The items were auctioned off at ReStore, with all proceeds benefitting affordable housing in Austin.

Bench made out of recycled water bottles, reclaimed wood and a 3D printerNow, re:3D hopes their technology can benefit communities around the world by offering a way for communities to create products at minimal cost, all while reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.

See what creative and zero waste ideas come out of this year’s [RE]Verse Pitch Competition and consider tuning in to the Opening Pitch event on February 2.

Jan 06, 2021 - 05:20 pm CST

By: Bailey Grimmett

The [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is an annual, social innovation program for local entrepreneurs and innovators to help reduce waste in Austin. Local businesses and organizations throw away thousands of pounds of surplus materials each year, but with the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition, local entrepreneurs, business owners and others interested in sustainability can make a difference by creating a new product or business venture out of unused materials. Do you have what it takes to compete? Take a look at winning ideas from previous years and this story about how [RE]verse Pitch winners create furniture from recycled materials, to benefit affordable housing in Austin.  

Throughout the competition, participants will have the chance to network with other competitors and business owners, attend workshops, receive guidance from mentors, and create a business idea or product based on the chosen byproduct material. Up to four contestants (or teams) will win the competition. These winners will get the chance to participate in a four-month accelerator program, pitch their idea in front of potential investors at the inaugural Circular Austin Showcase in July 2021, and receive a cash prize.  

Meet the 2021 material suppliers

There are five material suppliers providing seven materials. This year, contestants have the option to select a material pitched by local businesses or source their own byproduct material.  

Austin Creative Reuse

Austin Creative Reuse, a local non-profit with reuse arts and crafts, will provide:

   decorator fabric samples
   architectural samples
Fierce Whiskers Distillery

Fierce Whiskers Distillery, a local whiskey distillery, will provide:

spent distillers grain slurry (i.e. water + grain)
a flammable substance/byproduct from the distillation process.
Austin Community College

Austin Community College will provide used markers, pens and pencils.

Smartish

Smartish, an Austin-based phone case manufacturer, will provide phone cases.

R2 Corporation

R2 Corporation, a local electronics recycler, will provide plastic bins/cases.

  

Join in on the competition

Interested in participating in [Re]Verse Pitch? Register for the opening pitch event taking place on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 6–7:30 p.m. 


[Re]Verse Pitch is a collaboration between the City of Austin, the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce, and the US Business Council for Sustainable Development with additional support from community partners. 

Dec 08, 2020 - 03:09 pm CST

"Cat sits in a pile of bubble wrap"

By: Keri Greenwalt

With so many purchases taking place online this year, it is important to be mindful of the ways we are negatively impacting the environment and to make efforts to minimize them. Here are some tips to ensure your holiday purchasing is a little closer to zero waste, while possibly saving time and money in the process.

Think about what you are purchasing 

Does the recipient really need (or even want) the gift you have in mind? Maybe giving a great story would be better than a newly manufactured item. Giving a great story means thinking beyond brand new items and finding gifts that create new memories with your family and friends (even if they must be virtual). Whether it’s the anticipation of the experiences you will share, the thoughtfulness of having a beloved item repaired, or the excitement of receiving a reused item that has lived a life before getting to you; giving a great story means a personal gift that shows you care about your loved one and the environment.  

Consolidate purchases, whenever possible 

Rather than placing orders with several different merchants or multiple orders with the same merchant, consider making a single large purchase. Some stores also offer an option to ship your items in as few shipments as possible. These are great ways to decrease the number of shipments heading to your destination, which saves on vehicle emissions and unnecessary packing materials. 

Consider curbside pickup 

If the store you are making the purchase from is close by, consider opting for contactless curbside pickup, rather than shipping the item to your door. This can minimize the need for extra boxes and packing materials to be used. Plus, some items may even be available for same-day pickup so you could get your item sooner while also saving yourself the cost of shipping fees. 

Reuse what you can 

  • When shipping gifts out to recipients, try padding items in the package with layers of newspaper, rather than purchasing new packing items like bubble wrap.  

  • Save boxes, shipping envelopes, bubble wrap, air pockets packing peanuts and paper stuffing from shipments you receive to reuse when you mail out packages.  

  • If you can’t reuse the shipping materials yourself, consider giving them to a neighbor or friend who may be able to put them to use. Styrofoam packing peanuts can be donated for reuse. 

  • If you must purchase shipping materials, opt for items that are made out of recycled material.

Recycle what can’t be reused 

Learn what can be recycled and how to properly do so. 

  • Cardboard boxes, paper envelopes, newspaper, wrapping paper (that is free of foil and glitter), brown paper wrap and stuffing can be recycled in your blue recycling cart. If you have more than what will fit in your cart, place additional recyclables in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. Extra recycling will be collected at no charge. If you find that you often have extra recyclables and would like to request an additional blue cart, free of charge, call 512-494-9400. 

  • Wrapping paper with foil or glitter cannot be recycled must be placed in the trash. 

  • Stretchy plastic film can be recycled, but not in your blue cart because they jam up the sorting machines at recycling facilities. Items like plastic bags, bubble wrap and air pockets must be dropped off for recycling

  • Styrofoam is not accepted in your blue cart but can be dropped off for recycling. 

  • Poly mailers cannot be recycled so place those in your brown trash cart. 

Nov 10, 2020 - 10:26 am CST

"Family huddles around tablet to video chat with others at Thanksgiving table"

By Ashley Pace and Keri Greenwalt 

While the holidays may look different this year, there are still things you can do to enjoy your day and minimize waste in the process. So, make the most of it and be sure to follow the City of Austin’s holiday safety guidelines to protect yourself and your family as you zero waste your Thanksgiving this year. 

Be a mindful shopper 

  • It’s likely your dinner party will be smaller this year. Be sure you don’t make too much food that will only go to waste. This handy food calculator will help you estimate the amount of food you need based on size, hunger (how many guests prefer small portions or large portions), food spread and more. 

  • Choose to buy imperfect produce. Grab the oddly shaped carrots or slightly bruised apples that others are less likely to purchase and save them from the garbage pail. 

  • Opt to buy products that contain less packaging or those that come in recyclable packaging. 

  • Don’t forget your reusable shopping and produce bags. 

Set the table for zero waste 

  • If you're missing your local family this year, consider serving up a plate of hot food to your loved one(s) in a reusable container you can deliver with no contact. Then video call them to enjoy dinner together virtually.  

  • Or, you could even select a family recipe, send each family member the list of ingredients, then cook and enjoy your meal together virtually.  

  • Having fewer people at your table makes it even easier to break out the good china and ditch the one-time use plates or cutlery.  

  • Consider using cloth napkins. They reduce waste and add a little extra elegance to your meal. 

  • Create a centerpiece or other festive décor out of reused items that are already around your home. Make it more fun by doing the craft virtually with a friend or family member(s).  

  • Cook with reusable cookware, rather than disposable aluminum dishes. 

Waste nothing 

  • Realizing you bought more than you made? Drop off unused cans or groceries for donation at a local food pantry to keep it out of the landfill, and help those in need at the same time. 

  • Save the leftovers for a meal to enjoy on another day. There’s nothing like a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with all the fixings. 

  • Use every piece of what you cook. Keep those turkey bones to make broth, baked potato skins for chips, etc.  

  • Compost what you can’t use. Turkey bones, fat, food scraps and leftovers that go bad before you can use them can be composted in your green curbside composting cart. If you don’t have curbside composting, some items like vegetable scraps can still be composted in other ways

Nov 09, 2020 - 11:51 am CST

"man with a recycling bin"

Recycling doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are some tips to help make it a little easier, because every little bit helps:

Keep trash out of the recycling.

Throwing trash bags in the recycling cart is a big problem and costs your apartment community extra money, which could be passed on to you.

Break down cardboard boxes.

This leaves room to encourage your neighbors to recycle more. Keep in mind that soiled pizza boxes aren’t
recyclable. If the top is clean, you can tear it off and recycle it.

Add a recycling bin to your home.

Start with easy-to-recycle items like hard plastic, cardboard, aluminum cans and glass. You can use a paper
grocery bag, which is also recyclable.

Donate reusable items.

Search the Austin Reuse Directory to find more than 100 drop-off sites or connect with a local business for
pick-up services where available.

Ger more information about recycling in Austin.

Nov 09, 2020 - 10:33 am CST

This holiday season, Austinites may be looking for safe ways to spend time with friends and family to keep the holiday spirit alive. Consider giving a great story in this unprecedented year.

What does it mean to give a great story?

One of the best pieces of zero waste holiday advice came in 1957, when Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch said, “Maybe Christmas… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more.”  Who knew the Grinch was so zero waste?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another holiday, many traditions rely on giving gifts to show friends and family how much you care. But Americans wasted $15.2 billion on unwanted gifts in 2018, and five billion pounds  of returned retail gifts ended up in landfills in 2017. These numbers show that we can help reduce waste (and save money) this holiday season by refining our gift-giving skills. Instead of buying the newest gadget this year, create lifelong memories with your loved ones, give gifts with unique pasts, and give a great story.

Give an experience

"Give an experience, a family goes hiking

  • Plan an online family cooking class. Select a family recipe and send each family member the list of ingredients for the recipe to get from the grocery store. After the ingredients are bought, set up a date and time for each family member to log onto their computer and virtually get together (there are many free, online video-conferencing software options available); and start cooking!
  • Purchase an online, skill-development class (cooking, music lessons, painting) you can do “together,” from a distance.
  • Check out and support Austin’s art scene together virtually (theatre performances, art galleries/exhibits, concerts).
  • Buy an annual pass to state or national parks.
  • Give kayak or canoe rental gift certificates.
  • When in doubt, research ‘gift experiences’ online and find the best fit for your friends and family.

Give a repaired item

"repair: man repairs rocking horse"

  • Repair your friend’s broken bike or guitar with guided instruction through Austin Resource Recovery’s Fix-It at Home! repair classes.
  • Have a favorite pair of shoes resoled and polished.
  • Restore photos that are damaged or faded.
  • Alter or patch a favorite outfit that no longer fits.

Give a reused or secondhand item

"Reuse: tea cups and bowls reused as planters"

  • Buy a pre-loved book.
  • Find vintage clothing or a piece of jewelry with history and style.
  • Turn a teacup into a planter.
  • Make a quilt out of favorite old T-shirts.
  • Add a new coat of paint or refurbish to an old piece of furniture.

Oct 20, 2020 - 02:58 pm CDT

"Items stacked up for donation"

By: Max McCready

National Reuse Day is on October 20, and we’re excited to celebrate the benefits of extending the life of  items in our homes and closets. There are many ways to participate, like donating gently-used items or supporting your local thrift store. We were curious how to make it easier for stores and employees to process donations. 

We asked thrift stores to give us their best tips on how to donate ‘like a pro.’  Here’s what they said: 

1. Organize your donations by category.  

Take a few moments before leaving your house to group your donations into categories. This helps staff and volunteers quickly sort through your donation. 

2. Package and secure loose items.  

When donating loose odds and ends, it's helpful if items are contained in something they won't spill out of. For example, if you have small items that are part of a set, like silverware, consider placing them in a container or tying them together with a string. 

3. When in doubt, ask. 

Donating something that’s out of the ordinary? If you’re unsure whether your item is accepted, call to the store to confirm they can process your item 

4. Drop off your items when the store is open.   

When donations are left overnight, they often get rummaged through, leaving a mess that employees have to clean up the next morning. Ensure the thrift store benefits fully from your donation by dropping it off during the store’s regular hours. 

5) Donate seasonal items.   

Ski jackets aren’t anyone’s go-to during an Austin summer. Reduce thrift stores’ need to hold onto items for months by donating items appropriate for that time of year. 

The tips require minimal additional effort, but can save thrift stores and their employees a lot of time and energy. So the next time you donate items to your favorite store, donate like a pro! 

Find your local thrift store and check their safety protocols and store hours before stopping to donate gently-used items! To learn even more about the behind-the-scenes world of the thrift industry, check out Thrift Store Planet with journalist Adam Minter, hosted by the City of Austin and Imagine Austin Speaker Series. 

Oct 01, 2020 - 02:46 pm CDT

Ken Snipes, Director, Austin Resource Recovery   
By: Ken Snipes, Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

How much of what we place in our curbside recycling carts is actually recycled? With the daily impact COVID-19 has had on our lives (increases in single-use plastics, gloves and face coverings), this question may be on your minds as you roll your blue recycling carts to the curb. On behalf of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), I would like to reassure you that all zero-waste programs and initiatives, including recycling, continue to be a priority in Austin.

"Recycling truck collects contents from curbside carts"  "Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center entrance sign"

Since the onset of the pandemic in Central Texas in March, we have worked diligently to explore creative solutions to continue diverting Austin’s unwanted items from local landfills to realize our mission of becoming zero-waste by 2040. Even amid a pandemic, our diversion rate has increased by nearly four percent over last year’s totals by continuing to provide our essential services as residential output rose.

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center (RRDOC) has reopened, by appointment only, for proper disposal of hard-to-recycle items and household hazardous waste. We had to close the center temporarily while we, like the rest of the country, learned to navigate through the ever-changing pandemic response. In addition to protecting the health of RRDOC staff and visitors, the closure allowed reassigned staff to assist with implementing added operational safety measures, such as and daily temperature scans. These new processes ensure collections operator safety and the continued weekly collection of trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings service.

Similarly, we suspended large brush and bulk collections to divert additional employees to support essential weekly collections due to large increases in household trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings as many Austinites worked from home. Large brush and bulk collections will resume on October 12 and 26, respectively. Both operational shifts allowed ARR to continue servicing residential routes without a lapse or suspension of residential services. You can view your collection schedule, including your next bulk and large brush collection week, or download the Austin Recycles App.

At ARR, we do not only provide Austinites with proper disposal of their unwanted items; our staff has been hard at work helping residents continue zero-waste practices during COVID-19. Encouraging reuse, repair and donation through online workshops, marketing and advertising campaigns and social media engagement to keep even more out of our local landfills and giving those items a second, or third, life.  

Additionally, ARR proudly joined the U.S. Plastics Pact on August 25 of this year, as another example of our commitment to recycling and reducing plastic waste on a national level. By joining the pact, we can re-imagine the way plastics are designed, used and reused to eliminate unwanted byproducts from the process.

As challenges like COVID-19 arise, ARR’s flexibility allows us to adapt and continue to provide our award-winning services to you. We are immensely grateful for your commitment to living a waste-free lifestyle and for joining us on Austin’s zero waste journey.

Tagged:
Oct 01, 2020 - 02:02 pm CDT

 

"Snake, Rattle & Roll at Fortlandia"

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin's Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) accepts hard-to-recycle items like Styrofoam, plastic bags, old electronics and household hazardous waste for special recycling in order to keep the items out of the landfill. But did you know the center also accepts tires for a small fee? Most tires are shredded and used in playgrounds or on recreational surfaces for public use. Recently, some tires were put to reuse in a creative way.

Through a recent (and fort-unate) partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the RRDOC donated more than 100 tires for an upcoming project as part of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's annual Fortlandia exhibit. With these tires, Texas Parks and Wildlife was able to create the Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort. It is a giant rattlesnake constructed with more than 100 tires, which visitors can see on display at Fortlandia through January.

The Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort is a great example of how everyday items and materials (like our car tires) can be reused and given a second life. Thanks to Austin and Travis County residents, more than 100 tires were kept out of the landfill and are now benefiting our community. Tire-rrific job, Austin!

"Rendering of Snake, Rattle & Roll exhibit at Fortlandia"

Jan 06, 2021 - 11:05 pm CST

By: Max McCready

re:3D co-founders Samantha Snabes and Matthew Fiedler met while working as contractors for NASA, helping communities in need through Engineers Without Borders. While traveling with the program, they met aspiring entrepreneurs with great ideas, but limited access to affordable materials or startup funds. To empower these underserved communities worldwide, Snabes and Fielder founded re:3D in 2013, creating affordable, large-scale 3D printers for under 10 percent the cost of its competitors.

Fast forward a few years and in 2018, Snabes and Fiedler entered and won the [RE]verse Pitch Competition, a social entrepreneurship competition hosted by the City of Austin and community partners. But what was their winning idea? Using recycled plastic from local identification card manufacturer HID Global to create furniture.

After winning [RE]Verse Pitch, Snabes and Fiedler used the prize money to buy a new, industrial plastic grinder known as Gigabot X for re:3D. At the same time, they struck up a partnership with William Stockton, Vice President of Retail for Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore and 2019 [RE]Verse Pitch Competition judge, and were able to install their grinder at the ReStore and started to build their line of 3D printed furniture.

Two years after re:3D’s [RE]verse Pitch victory, they and ReStore released their line of printed furniture which included benches, chairs and coffee tables. The items were auctioned off at ReStore, with all proceeds benefitting affordable housing in Austin.

Bench made out of recycled water bottles, reclaimed wood and a 3D printerNow, re:3D hopes their technology can benefit communities around the world by offering a way for communities to create products at minimal cost, all while reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.

See what creative and zero waste ideas come out of this year’s [RE]Verse Pitch Competition and consider tuning in to the Opening Pitch event on February 2.

Road to Zero Waste
Jan 06, 2021 - 05:20 pm CST

By: Bailey Grimmett

The [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is an annual, social innovation program for local entrepreneurs and innovators to help reduce waste in Austin. Local businesses and organizations throw away thousands of pounds of surplus materials each year, but with the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition, local entrepreneurs, business owners and others interested in sustainability can make a difference by creating a new product or business venture out of unused materials. Do you have what it takes to compete? Take a look at winning ideas from previous years and this story about how [RE]verse Pitch winners create furniture from recycled materials, to benefit affordable housing in Austin.  

Throughout the competition, participants will have the chance to network with other competitors and business owners, attend workshops, receive guidance from mentors, and create a business idea or product based on the chosen byproduct material. Up to four contestants (or teams) will win the competition. These winners will get the chance to participate in a four-month accelerator program, pitch their idea in front of potential investors at the inaugural Circular Austin Showcase in July 2021, and receive a cash prize.  

Meet the 2021 material suppliers

There are five material suppliers providing seven materials. This year, contestants have the option to select a material pitched by local businesses or source their own byproduct material.  

Austin Creative Reuse

Austin Creative Reuse, a local non-profit with reuse arts and crafts, will provide:

   decorator fabric samples
   architectural samples
Fierce Whiskers Distillery

Fierce Whiskers Distillery, a local whiskey distillery, will provide:

spent distillers grain slurry (i.e. water + grain)
a flammable substance/byproduct from the distillation process.
Austin Community College

Austin Community College will provide used markers, pens and pencils.

Smartish

Smartish, an Austin-based phone case manufacturer, will provide phone cases.

R2 Corporation

R2 Corporation, a local electronics recycler, will provide plastic bins/cases.

  

Join in on the competition

Interested in participating in [Re]Verse Pitch? Register for the opening pitch event taking place on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 6–7:30 p.m. 


[Re]Verse Pitch is a collaboration between the City of Austin, the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce, and the US Business Council for Sustainable Development with additional support from community partners. 

Road to Zero Waste
Dec 08, 2020 - 03:09 pm CST

"Cat sits in a pile of bubble wrap"

By: Keri Greenwalt

With so many purchases taking place online this year, it is important to be mindful of the ways we are negatively impacting the environment and to make efforts to minimize them. Here are some tips to ensure your holiday purchasing is a little closer to zero waste, while possibly saving time and money in the process.

Think about what you are purchasing 

Does the recipient really need (or even want) the gift you have in mind? Maybe giving a great story would be better than a newly manufactured item. Giving a great story means thinking beyond brand new items and finding gifts that create new memories with your family and friends (even if they must be virtual). Whether it’s the anticipation of the experiences you will share, the thoughtfulness of having a beloved item repaired, or the excitement of receiving a reused item that has lived a life before getting to you; giving a great story means a personal gift that shows you care about your loved one and the environment.  

Consolidate purchases, whenever possible 

Rather than placing orders with several different merchants or multiple orders with the same merchant, consider making a single large purchase. Some stores also offer an option to ship your items in as few shipments as possible. These are great ways to decrease the number of shipments heading to your destination, which saves on vehicle emissions and unnecessary packing materials. 

Consider curbside pickup 

If the store you are making the purchase from is close by, consider opting for contactless curbside pickup, rather than shipping the item to your door. This can minimize the need for extra boxes and packing materials to be used. Plus, some items may even be available for same-day pickup so you could get your item sooner while also saving yourself the cost of shipping fees. 

Reuse what you can 

  • When shipping gifts out to recipients, try padding items in the package with layers of newspaper, rather than purchasing new packing items like bubble wrap.  

  • Save boxes, shipping envelopes, bubble wrap, air pockets packing peanuts and paper stuffing from shipments you receive to reuse when you mail out packages.  

  • If you can’t reuse the shipping materials yourself, consider giving them to a neighbor or friend who may be able to put them to use. Styrofoam packing peanuts can be donated for reuse. 

  • If you must purchase shipping materials, opt for items that are made out of recycled material.

Recycle what can’t be reused 

Learn what can be recycled and how to properly do so. 

  • Cardboard boxes, paper envelopes, newspaper, wrapping paper (that is free of foil and glitter), brown paper wrap and stuffing can be recycled in your blue recycling cart. If you have more than what will fit in your cart, place additional recyclables in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. Extra recycling will be collected at no charge. If you find that you often have extra recyclables and would like to request an additional blue cart, free of charge, call 512-494-9400. 

  • Wrapping paper with foil or glitter cannot be recycled must be placed in the trash. 

  • Stretchy plastic film can be recycled, but not in your blue cart because they jam up the sorting machines at recycling facilities. Items like plastic bags, bubble wrap and air pockets must be dropped off for recycling

  • Styrofoam is not accepted in your blue cart but can be dropped off for recycling. 

  • Poly mailers cannot be recycled so place those in your brown trash cart. 

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 10, 2020 - 10:26 am CST

"Family huddles around tablet to video chat with others at Thanksgiving table"

By Ashley Pace and Keri Greenwalt 

While the holidays may look different this year, there are still things you can do to enjoy your day and minimize waste in the process. So, make the most of it and be sure to follow the City of Austin’s holiday safety guidelines to protect yourself and your family as you zero waste your Thanksgiving this year. 

Be a mindful shopper 

  • It’s likely your dinner party will be smaller this year. Be sure you don’t make too much food that will only go to waste. This handy food calculator will help you estimate the amount of food you need based on size, hunger (how many guests prefer small portions or large portions), food spread and more. 

  • Choose to buy imperfect produce. Grab the oddly shaped carrots or slightly bruised apples that others are less likely to purchase and save them from the garbage pail. 

  • Opt to buy products that contain less packaging or those that come in recyclable packaging. 

  • Don’t forget your reusable shopping and produce bags. 

Set the table for zero waste 

  • If you're missing your local family this year, consider serving up a plate of hot food to your loved one(s) in a reusable container you can deliver with no contact. Then video call them to enjoy dinner together virtually.  

  • Or, you could even select a family recipe, send each family member the list of ingredients, then cook and enjoy your meal together virtually.  

  • Having fewer people at your table makes it even easier to break out the good china and ditch the one-time use plates or cutlery.  

  • Consider using cloth napkins. They reduce waste and add a little extra elegance to your meal. 

  • Create a centerpiece or other festive décor out of reused items that are already around your home. Make it more fun by doing the craft virtually with a friend or family member(s).  

  • Cook with reusable cookware, rather than disposable aluminum dishes. 

Waste nothing 

  • Realizing you bought more than you made? Drop off unused cans or groceries for donation at a local food pantry to keep it out of the landfill, and help those in need at the same time. 

  • Save the leftovers for a meal to enjoy on another day. There’s nothing like a Thanksgiving turkey sandwich with all the fixings. 

  • Use every piece of what you cook. Keep those turkey bones to make broth, baked potato skins for chips, etc.  

  • Compost what you can’t use. Turkey bones, fat, food scraps and leftovers that go bad before you can use them can be composted in your green curbside composting cart. If you don’t have curbside composting, some items like vegetable scraps can still be composted in other ways

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 09, 2020 - 11:51 am CST

"man with a recycling bin"

Recycling doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are some tips to help make it a little easier, because every little bit helps:

Keep trash out of the recycling.

Throwing trash bags in the recycling cart is a big problem and costs your apartment community extra money, which could be passed on to you.

Break down cardboard boxes.

This leaves room to encourage your neighbors to recycle more. Keep in mind that soiled pizza boxes aren’t
recyclable. If the top is clean, you can tear it off and recycle it.

Add a recycling bin to your home.

Start with easy-to-recycle items like hard plastic, cardboard, aluminum cans and glass. You can use a paper
grocery bag, which is also recyclable.

Donate reusable items.

Search the Austin Reuse Directory to find more than 100 drop-off sites or connect with a local business for
pick-up services where available.

Ger more information about recycling in Austin.

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 09, 2020 - 10:33 am CST

This holiday season, Austinites may be looking for safe ways to spend time with friends and family to keep the holiday spirit alive. Consider giving a great story in this unprecedented year.

What does it mean to give a great story?

One of the best pieces of zero waste holiday advice came in 1957, when Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch said, “Maybe Christmas… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more.”  Who knew the Grinch was so zero waste?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another holiday, many traditions rely on giving gifts to show friends and family how much you care. But Americans wasted $15.2 billion on unwanted gifts in 2018, and five billion pounds  of returned retail gifts ended up in landfills in 2017. These numbers show that we can help reduce waste (and save money) this holiday season by refining our gift-giving skills. Instead of buying the newest gadget this year, create lifelong memories with your loved ones, give gifts with unique pasts, and give a great story.

Give an experience

"Give an experience, a family goes hiking

  • Plan an online family cooking class. Select a family recipe and send each family member the list of ingredients for the recipe to get from the grocery store. After the ingredients are bought, set up a date and time for each family member to log onto their computer and virtually get together (there are many free, online video-conferencing software options available); and start cooking!
  • Purchase an online, skill-development class (cooking, music lessons, painting) you can do “together,” from a distance.
  • Check out and support Austin’s art scene together virtually (theatre performances, art galleries/exhibits, concerts).
  • Buy an annual pass to state or national parks.
  • Give kayak or canoe rental gift certificates.
  • When in doubt, research ‘gift experiences’ online and find the best fit for your friends and family.

Give a repaired item

"repair: man repairs rocking horse"

  • Repair your friend’s broken bike or guitar with guided instruction through Austin Resource Recovery’s Fix-It at Home! repair classes.
  • Have a favorite pair of shoes resoled and polished.
  • Restore photos that are damaged or faded.
  • Alter or patch a favorite outfit that no longer fits.

Give a reused or secondhand item

"Reuse: tea cups and bowls reused as planters"

  • Buy a pre-loved book.
  • Find vintage clothing or a piece of jewelry with history and style.
  • Turn a teacup into a planter.
  • Make a quilt out of favorite old T-shirts.
  • Add a new coat of paint or refurbish to an old piece of furniture.

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 20, 2020 - 02:58 pm CDT

"Items stacked up for donation"

By: Max McCready

National Reuse Day is on October 20, and we’re excited to celebrate the benefits of extending the life of  items in our homes and closets. There are many ways to participate, like donating gently-used items or supporting your local thrift store. We were curious how to make it easier for stores and employees to process donations. 

We asked thrift stores to give us their best tips on how to donate ‘like a pro.’  Here’s what they said: 

1. Organize your donations by category.  

Take a few moments before leaving your house to group your donations into categories. This helps staff and volunteers quickly sort through your donation. 

2. Package and secure loose items.  

When donating loose odds and ends, it's helpful if items are contained in something they won't spill out of. For example, if you have small items that are part of a set, like silverware, consider placing them in a container or tying them together with a string. 

3. When in doubt, ask. 

Donating something that’s out of the ordinary? If you’re unsure whether your item is accepted, call to the store to confirm they can process your item 

4. Drop off your items when the store is open.   

When donations are left overnight, they often get rummaged through, leaving a mess that employees have to clean up the next morning. Ensure the thrift store benefits fully from your donation by dropping it off during the store’s regular hours. 

5) Donate seasonal items.   

Ski jackets aren’t anyone’s go-to during an Austin summer. Reduce thrift stores’ need to hold onto items for months by donating items appropriate for that time of year. 

The tips require minimal additional effort, but can save thrift stores and their employees a lot of time and energy. So the next time you donate items to your favorite store, donate like a pro! 

Find your local thrift store and check their safety protocols and store hours before stopping to donate gently-used items! To learn even more about the behind-the-scenes world of the thrift industry, check out Thrift Store Planet with journalist Adam Minter, hosted by the City of Austin and Imagine Austin Speaker Series. 

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 01, 2020 - 02:46 pm CDT

Ken Snipes, Director, Austin Resource Recovery   
By: Ken Snipes, Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

How much of what we place in our curbside recycling carts is actually recycled? With the daily impact COVID-19 has had on our lives (increases in single-use plastics, gloves and face coverings), this question may be on your minds as you roll your blue recycling carts to the curb. On behalf of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), I would like to reassure you that all zero-waste programs and initiatives, including recycling, continue to be a priority in Austin.

"Recycling truck collects contents from curbside carts"  "Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center entrance sign"

Since the onset of the pandemic in Central Texas in March, we have worked diligently to explore creative solutions to continue diverting Austin’s unwanted items from local landfills to realize our mission of becoming zero-waste by 2040. Even amid a pandemic, our diversion rate has increased by nearly four percent over last year’s totals by continuing to provide our essential services as residential output rose.

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center (RRDOC) has reopened, by appointment only, for proper disposal of hard-to-recycle items and household hazardous waste. We had to close the center temporarily while we, like the rest of the country, learned to navigate through the ever-changing pandemic response. In addition to protecting the health of RRDOC staff and visitors, the closure allowed reassigned staff to assist with implementing added operational safety measures, such as and daily temperature scans. These new processes ensure collections operator safety and the continued weekly collection of trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings service.

Similarly, we suspended large brush and bulk collections to divert additional employees to support essential weekly collections due to large increases in household trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings as many Austinites worked from home. Large brush and bulk collections will resume on October 12 and 26, respectively. Both operational shifts allowed ARR to continue servicing residential routes without a lapse or suspension of residential services. You can view your collection schedule, including your next bulk and large brush collection week, or download the Austin Recycles App.

At ARR, we do not only provide Austinites with proper disposal of their unwanted items; our staff has been hard at work helping residents continue zero-waste practices during COVID-19. Encouraging reuse, repair and donation through online workshops, marketing and advertising campaigns and social media engagement to keep even more out of our local landfills and giving those items a second, or third, life.  

Additionally, ARR proudly joined the U.S. Plastics Pact on August 25 of this year, as another example of our commitment to recycling and reducing plastic waste on a national level. By joining the pact, we can re-imagine the way plastics are designed, used and reused to eliminate unwanted byproducts from the process.

As challenges like COVID-19 arise, ARR’s flexibility allows us to adapt and continue to provide our award-winning services to you. We are immensely grateful for your commitment to living a waste-free lifestyle and for joining us on Austin’s zero waste journey.

Tagged:
Road to Zero Waste
Oct 01, 2020 - 02:02 pm CDT

 

"Snake, Rattle & Roll at Fortlandia"

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin's Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) accepts hard-to-recycle items like Styrofoam, plastic bags, old electronics and household hazardous waste for special recycling in order to keep the items out of the landfill. But did you know the center also accepts tires for a small fee? Most tires are shredded and used in playgrounds or on recreational surfaces for public use. Recently, some tires were put to reuse in a creative way.

Through a recent (and fort-unate) partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the RRDOC donated more than 100 tires for an upcoming project as part of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's annual Fortlandia exhibit. With these tires, Texas Parks and Wildlife was able to create the Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort. It is a giant rattlesnake constructed with more than 100 tires, which visitors can see on display at Fortlandia through January.

The Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort is a great example of how everyday items and materials (like our car tires) can be reused and given a second life. Thanks to Austin and Travis County residents, more than 100 tires were kept out of the landfill and are now benefiting our community. Tire-rrific job, Austin!

"Rendering of Snake, Rattle & Roll exhibit at Fortlandia"

Road to Zero Waste