Sep 24, 2020 - 10:43 am CDT

By: Natalie Betts

"A man rents a bicycle"

If you’ve heard the term ‘circular economy,’ chances are you’ve heard it in connection with a recycling or reuse business. But that’s not the whole story. The goal of a circular economy is to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. (For more information on what a circular economy is, check out this quick primer, or this podcast.)

While businesses in the recycling and reuse industry are critical to a circular economy, a complete transition from a take-make-dispose society to a restorative, regenerative one involves businesses from all industries — and yours just might be one.

Here are the top five signs your business might be a part of Austin’s circular economy (without even knowing it!):

  1. You use a recycled or reused material. If you use recycled plastic, metal or other salvaged materials to create your products, you are avoiding the need for new, raw materials. This makes your business circular and keeps valuable materials in the economic ecosystem.
     
  2. You design products to use less. If you have a goal and set out to design products using less raw materials, or produce less waste in the manufacturing process – perhaps you’ve designed your product packaging to offer reusable options – you are reducing the demand for natural resources and acting in ‘circular’ way.
     
  3. You use sustainable materials. Some materials used in production are made of toxic chemicals (such as PVC), which oftentimes end up in landfills or are incinerated, leading to negative environmental impacts. If you use sustainable alternatives to these toxic materials, such as bio-based materials, then you are enabling end-of-life solutions that reduce or remove negative environmental impacts, since many products made of sustainable materials are able to be recycled, reused or composted.
     
  4. You make products built to last, or offer services that help them last. If your business offers extended warranties, creates durable products, or works to create an emotional connection between consumer and product (think, heirlooms— products passed down through generations), then you are practicing circular principles. Physical and emotional durability are some of the best circular design strategies that businesses can implement, as they keep these items in use and out of the landfill. Additionally, offering repair services or providing easily accessible repair information to your customers ensures that your product stays in use and is held onto for as long as possible, keeping it in Austin’s circular economy.
     
  5. You offer a rental service or provide a service in place of a product. If you offer rental options that keep consumers from making one-time purchases, then you are practicing a circular principle that keeps items and resources in the economy. On a similar circular path, if your company replaces a product with a service, then fewer items are being produced which reduces emissions and waste from our system.

If one or all of these practices applies to you and your business, then you are leading the way towards Austin’s sustainable, circular future. Austin says thank you! To see how you can be a part of Austin’s circular economy future, join Austin’s Circular Economy Program by applying to be a part of Austin’s Circular Economy Story or by signing up for the Circular Economy Program newsletter to receive updates on local news, upcoming networking opportunities, and business resources. Connect with us and join Austin’s circular story today.

Sep 02, 2020 - 01:43 am CDT

 

By: Ashley Pace

With stay-at-home orders extending through the rest of this year, for many, home is now the office, the classroom, the playground and so much more. While commutes and school drop-off lines may not be an issue right now, the increased amount of trash you’re tossing in your cart might be. Back in March, Austin Resource Recovery suspended extra trash fees, but a recent vote from Council means those fees will be reinstated as of September 7. Lighten the load and save some cash with these tips.

Avoid excess trash by:

Avoid fees by:

  • Keeping heavy materials like rocks, gravel, construction debris and concrete out of your trash cart. Excess trash must weigh less than 50 pounds in order to be collected.
  • Setting all carts to the curb by 6:30 a.m. on your collection day and setting your carts five feet apart.
  • Purchasing excess garbage stickers for all extra trash bags for $4 (plus tax) at any local grocery store (bags without tags are collected for a fee of $9.60 plus tax).

Tagged:
Aug 13, 2020 - 03:39 pm CDT

Zero Waste by 2040

By: Bailey Grimmett 

Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by 2040. Zero waste means keeping at least 90 percent of discarded materials out of landfills, and we’re still working towards that goal. How can Austin get into better 'zero waste' shape by 2040?

Here are five at-home exercises you can add to your daily routine to help Austin reach that zero waste goal from home!

Exercise #1: A waste reduction warm-up

Man rents a bicycle

Before buying or online shopping, find alternative options to buying ‘new’:

  • Rent what you don’t need every day. Do you regret purchasing a dress for that one event, or the equipment for that one project? Are these things now lurking in the corner of your closet or garage? Look online for rental options for everyday items—you may be surprised to find how many things are for rent just by typing “Rent [ITEM]” in your search bar.
  • Reuse your stuff in a creative way. Try turning a worn out t-shirt into a useful shopping bag or look for local businesses that sell secondhand or upcycled (i.e. things made out of other things) items. Many thrift stores are now offering online ordering, curbside pickups and outdoor sales.

Exercise #2: Repair your things, repeat

Woman uses a sewing machine to stitch a shirt

Fix what you already have by attending a Fix-It At Home! class. During these interactive, online classes, local instructors will teach you how to repair your broken items. Not only is it fun to pick up new skills, but you can save money and your treasured items in the process. Connect with fellow DIY repairers across the globe by following or posting the hashtag #FixAtHome.

Exercise #3: Food waste workout

Woman puts food scraps in Bokashi in-home composting system

Are you ordering more take-out? Learning to cook sourdough bread? Don’t trash the leftovers or food waste! Uneaten food is a valuable and natural resource that has many benefits. Find out how your food waste can benefit your home (apartments included)! You may even be eligible for a home composting or chicken keeping rebate.

Exercise #4: Yard trimmings and lawn care – breaking a sweat

Person used lawn mower to cut grass

More Austinites at home means more time for lawn care. Did you know there has been an 89 percent increase in yard trimmings collection in Austin since March 2020? Instead of removing yard trimmings, find out ways to put them to use. Try ‘grass-cycling,’ spend time with your family or roommates composting in the backyard, or turn your trimmings into mulch. Learn more about reusing your yard trimmings.

Exercise #5: Stretch your ‘stuff’

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

Give your unwanted items a second life by finding ways to keep them in use:

  • Share items in a safe and fun way. Try a social distance swap with your neighbors or find ways to share your items through the Buy Nothing Project.
  • Donate items to one of the many organizations on the Austin Reuse Directory. Be sure to call drop-off locations before visiting to learn about their COVID-19 safety protocols. If you are an Austin Resource Recovery customer and unable to drop off items, schedule a pick-up of unwanted clothing and housewares through the curbside collection program.

Post zero-waste workout tip

Cat buried in pile of bubble wrap

If you find yourself ordering things online more, you may have more packing materials such as cardboard boxes and bubble wrap in your home. With a 146 percent growth in all online retail orders, let’s make sure we’re recycling right when the time comes. Use our What do I do with tool or download the new Austin Recycles App for your Apple or Android device to find out what to do with just about anything.

Repeat these exercises daily and see results in just a few weeks!

For more ways to exercise your zero waste muscles at home, follow Austin Resource Recovery on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter for tips, how-to's, stories, news and inspirational ideas on rethinking your waste.


 

Aug 13, 2020 - 02:59 pm CDT

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

By: Natalie Betts

A fun way to be zero waste hero at home and in your neighborhood is by (safely) sharing or swapping items with your neighbors. If you’re feeling the need to freshen up your closet or your home, you don’t have to buy new to do it! Here’s how to organize your own social distance swap. Be sure to wipe down these materials and keep a safe social distance from others.

Step 1 

Decide what kind of swap you want to organize. You could swap clothing, home décor, art, jewelry, even tools.

Step 2

Find a friend or neighbor who wants to swap, or log onto your local or neighborhood communication channels to find others to participate.

Step 3

Find a box and fill it with the items that no longer work in your space, fit, or bring you joy. Wash or disinfect all the items before putting them in the box.

Step 4

Mask up, then set it on your friend’s or neighbor’s doorstep at an agreed-upon day. They can see what items they would like to keep, and then add their own items to the box to give back to you. Have your friend repeat the wash and disinfect process with their box.

Step 5

Discover new treasures when you get the box back! If you receive things that you don’t need or want, schedule a pick-up of these items for recycling and reuse through the Clothing and Housewares Curbside Collection Program (ARR customers only). Or use the Austin Reuse Directory to donate the items, or ask your friend if they might want them back.

Step 6

Celebrate! You just saved money, kept things out of the landfill and made a safe, socially-distanced connection with your community. Share photos and stories of how your new items are brightening up your home, and ask your fellow swap-ees to do the same.


 

May 18, 2020 - 01:06 pm CDT

Tammie Williamson

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

As we continue to Stay At Home – Work Safe, Austinites have taken to their yards to improve the homes that have become their offices in recent weeks. As such, the amount of yard trimmings collected by Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) has reached an all-time high. Between March 30 and April 3, ARR received 89% more yard trimmings than over the same time last year!

While impressed by the efforts of Austin residents to keep their outdoor spaces fresh, ARR operators are being taxed by the large volumes of material they collect, sometimes working up to 13-hour shifts. Here are some useful tips that will help you “recycle” your yard trimmings at home instead of discarding them in your green cart or lawn and leaf bags.

Austin Resource Recovery workers collect yard trimmings set out at the curb.

  1. Instead of bagging your grass clippings, try “grass-cycling.” Grass-cycling allows you to leave clippings on your lawn to decompose. Grass clippings contain moisture and valuable nutrients that can help nourish your lawn.
     
  2. Try your hand at backyard composting. Composting is a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, reduce your trash output, and generate a free, rich soil conditioner.
     
  3. Recycle your yard trimmings into mulch. Shredded fallen leaves and grass clippings work as a great mulch around shrubs, plants, and at the base of trees to prevent weed growth and keep your yard and garden healthy.
     
  4. Finally, know what belongs in your composting cart. Download the Austin Recycles app, which allows customers to search for items they are unsure of what to do with and learn how to dispose of them properly. It also provides reminders about regular trash, recycling, compost and other curbside collections, as well as alerts about collection delays or service interruptions. The app is available for iOS and Android.

Thank you for keeping Austin beautiful, even in this time of uncertainty. Happy mowing, trimming and mulching!

 

May 15, 2020 - 02:37 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

On Monday, April 27, four groups of entrepreneurs gathered online to pitch innovative business ideas to a panel of expert judges at the [Re]Verse Pit­ch competition. What makes these pitches stand out? Each business idea utilized products created out of byproduct material (material waste) from a local business. During the two-hour event, ideas from dog beds made out of scrap decorator fabric samples to indoor pots and planters made out of vinyl record scraps were pitched. But only two winners were chosen and awarded prizes totaling $20,000.

Terra Helmets

Terra Helmet engineering design graphic

Terra Helmets was one of the winning groups, which will be receiving $10,000 from the City of Austin to develop and expand their business idea: repurposing decorator fabric samples, vinyl record scraps and plastic sandals to create helmets for riders of electric rideshare scooters. Terra Helmets will be partnering with local companies for the byproduct materials, including Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association (IIDA) for the decorator fabric samples, Gold Rush Vinyl for the vinyl record scraps, and Travis County for the plastic sandals. These byproduct materials, which would normally be sent to the landfill, will be used to make durable helmets for local residents using electric scooters. Thanks to creators Aadhikesh Boopalam, Seniru Kottegoda and Collin McCloskey, these materials will have a new life. “Using byproduct materials from local businesses and turning them into helmets allows us to keep ‘waste’ out of the landfill and foster a safe community. We’re protecting the earth while protecting your head,” said McCloskey of Terra Helmets during their final pitch event.

LoFi Recycling Systems

Samantha Panger and Destin Douglas of LoFi Recycling Systems hold a pot they designed with recycled materials

The second winner, LoFi Recycling Systems, was awarded the other $10,000 to develop and expand their business, which repurposes vinyl record scraps into indoor pots and planters. These pots and planters are a creative solution to recycling polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which makes up the vinyl records. Although a widely used plastic, PVC can be very difficult to recycle. Samantha Panger and Destin Douglas of LoFi Recycling Systems saw the material’s potential as a resource and are hopeful their business will grow as a sustainable solution to the concern of byproduct waste. “We want to keep PVC from ever ending up in a landfill, and turn it into something useful,” says Panger. “We will be able to use and shape this material into pots and planters… it’s a new and exciting way to recycle plastic waste.

A final congratulations to the winners and finalists of the Reverse Pitch competition. Your inspiring and innovative solutions to keeping byproduct waste out of our landfills helps better our city in more ways than one. We applaud your efforts and participation in our Zero Waste competition series. Join us next year to see what creative solutions Austinites come up with next!   


The Reverse Pitch competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, launched on February 10 at the opening pitch event, where five businesses and nonprofits pitched their surplus materials to eligible competitors. Over the course of several weeks, competitors attended virtual workshops and developed their business models leading up to the finalist pitch event on April 27. Four finalists were selected to present at the finalist pitch event, with two chosen as winners splitting the $20,000 grand prize.

Apr 14, 2020 - 10:09 am CDT

Tammie Williamson

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

As we Stay At Home – Work Safe, many of us have seen an increase in the amount of trash, recycling, compost and yard trimmings we are setting at the curb. Last week, Austin Resource Recovery Director Ken Snipes talked about what you can do to protect our waste collection workers. Another way to help is doing your part to sort and dispose of items the right way.

1. Know before you throw

Not sure what to do with used wipes, masks and rubber gloves? Learn what to do with each item you are trying to dispose of by playing the Austin Recycles Game, using our what do I do with...? tool or downloading the Austin Recycles App.

2. Fill your cart first

Curbside carts set out

We’ve waived all extra trash fees at this time, but we are asking that you secure all trash in plastic trash bags and fill your cart first. If your cart is full, securely tie any extra bags and leave them next to your trash cart.

Recyclables should be clean and loose in your carts. Fit as much as you can in the cart by breaking down boxes and crushing cans. If you have too much recycling to fit in your cart, you can use an extra box to fill with recyclables or call 3-1-1 to request a second recycle cart at no additional cost.

Make sure you fill your green compost cart first and put any extra yard trimmings in lawn and leaf bags.

3. Make the switch to reusable

There’s no better time than now to learn how to ditch single-use plastics and go reusable. One way to reduce the amount of waste you are hauling to the curb is by not generating that waste in the first place! Refuse plasticware on your take-out orders, use reusable containers for leftovers, or skip bottled water in favor of reusable cups or water bottles. Making small changes to your daily habits can add up to a lot of trash and recyclables that you’ll no longer be putting in your carts.


Every extra effort you can make to reduce your waste and educate yourself on how to dispose of items helps our employees stay safe on the job. Thank you for doing your part!

Apr 02, 2020 - 04:40 pm CDT

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

Over the past few weeks, we have seen strong interest regarding what we are doing to protect our waste collection workers. I’d like to highlight the importance of these critical workers and the vital role that they play to protect the health and safety of our community. I’d also like to underscore actions that both organizations and the public should consider in protecting our frontline workers.

Sanitation worker empties trash cart into trash truck

The front lines

Doctors, nurses, emergency medical service providers, first responders. These occupations are easily recognizable as “front line” service providers and deservedly so. They work tirelessly to test and treat those affected by COVID-19; coming in contact with the virus we still have much about which to learn. That said, seldom do we think about other occupations that are also out there on the front lines, like sanitation workers. Waste collection is critical to protect our people and communities. These workers are typically not who first come to mind when we think about the front lines, but I think they should be. Not ahead of any of the other frontline service providers, but right alongside them.

The 1918 Flu and waste collection

One of the great pandemics in our history was the 1918 flu. Worldwide, roughly 50 million people died from the disease, with about 675,000 deaths in the United States. The disease was so devastating that the life expectancy in the United States was lowered from 51 years in 1917 to 39 years in 1918. No one was spared!

In many cities, waste collection workers were hit especially hard. As the disease spread through and thinned their ranks, garbage piled up. In San Francisco, the issue was so significant; the city had no choice but to cover piles of garbage with dirt. In other cities along the east coast, trash piled up in the streets as high as two to three feet. As we fast forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 outbreak, the question before us now is, what have we learned from the 1918 outbreak and others that we can use to protect our waste collection workers?

Protecting our waste collection workers

Protections should begin with providing as much social distance as possible. An essential component of social distancing is to stay at home, but for our sanitation workers, that is not an option.

Organizations should explore opportunities to reduce the number of funnel points collection workers encounter daily. Considerations should include reducing the number of indoor meetings, engagements in tight quarters, and restricting daily access to and reliance on locker rooms. Industry leaders should also consider reducing three-person work crews to two-person teams, where feasible and safe to do so. Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including single-use and puncture-proof gloves, eye protection and, when available, masks should be strictly enforced. All vehicles, equipment and frequent touchpoints should be sanitized frequently.

Finally, there are steps the public can take to help protect waste collection workers too. They should be asked to bag and securely tie all trash, as collection workers should avoid coming into contact with loose trash. Additionally, the public can wipe down their cart handles when they set them out for collections.

Let’s all do our part to protect these unsung frontline workers so that they and their families remain safe and healthy.

Feb 06, 2020 - 12:02 pm CST

Woman recycles plastic bag with disgusted look on her face

By: Ashley Pace

Breakups are hard, but deep down you know it’s usually for the best. Especially, when you are breaking up with plastic bags. Many Austinites are in the habit of bringing their own bags to the grocery store, but there are a lot of unexpected ways to get more use out of the dozens of reusable bags you have likely accumulated. So as you say “bye bye bye” to flimsy single-use plastic bags forever, say hello to your new friend with benefits: the reusable bag.   

All the shopping

So you’ve finally gotten into the habit of bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. YAY! But what about other shopping around town? Bring your own bag to tote around clothes, hair products, to-go orders or convenience store grabs. 

Woman shops for clothing with her reusable bag

Daily grab-n-go items

Use your sturdy reusable bags to carry around your cosmetics, lunch, computer, or gym gear on a daily basis. 

Woman opens the door to the gym, carrying her reusable water bottle and reusable bag

The gift that keeps on giving

Many of the cute gift bags we see at the store are made with glitter, plastic and foil, all of which makes them unrecyclable. There are so many options for reusable totes that you can add to your already excellent gift by giving it in a reusable bag. 

Woman presents a gift to her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag

Fido forever

Dog carriers can be bulky and expensive, but with a great reusable bag, there is no need to purchase anything extra. Just pop your pup in and let them enjoy Austin’s amazing culture with you. 

Woman carries her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag to meet a friend

Pack a picnic

Take advantage of that spur-of-the-moment great weather and eat your lunch outside. Pack a picnic with all your treats and reusable gear and seize the day.   

Woman has a picnic with her Boston Terrier, using her reusable bag

Ending any relationship, especially one as long-term as your relationship with plastic bags can take time and dedication before you cut strings for good. With these tips, you can finally end that toxic relationship and move on to a greener, brighter future with your reusable bags. 

Don't forget to properly recycle the plastic bags you have.

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Feb 06, 2020 - 11:36 am CST

People in seats attending a Reverse Pitch opening pitch event

By: Bailey Grimmett

Each year, Austin entrepreneurs gather business ideas from a very unlikely source: local dumpsters. But not just any dumpster— a business’s dumpster. The annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a social innovation program that helps turn valuable raw materials that are currently leaving local businesses as waste into a resource for a new business.

The competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, starts with an opening pitch event and an audience of entrepreneurs. Unlike your traditional elevator pitch, [Re]Verse Pitch sets the stage for businesses and non-profits to pitch their material to an entrepreneur. Their goal? Inspire an innovator to take the pitched material, find a way to turn it into a resource for a new, successful business venture and ultimately keep the material out of the landfill.  By encouraging entrepreneurs to turn one business’s “waste” into their business’s resource, [Re]Verse pitch inspires profitable ventures while supporting a circular local economy.

For its fifth year, [Re]Verse Pitch is throwing it back… by bringing back previously pitched materials! Five businesses and nonprofits will take the stage to pitch their surplus materials which are the following:

  • Decorator fabric samples from Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association
  • Vinyl record defects and trimmings from Gold Rush Vinyl
  • Die-cut skeletons made of PVC/PEC from HID Global
  • Pressboard office furniture from University of Texas Resource Recovery
  • All-purpose PVC sandals from Travis County Sherriff’s Office

While these items may seem like waste to the untrained eye, this competition encourages entrepreneurs to view them as valuable resources, and find winning ways to put the materials to use.

During the coming months, entrepreneurs and teams will be matched to a mentor with whom they will create and refine a business idea using the pitched material. Qualifying business ideas and models will be pitched at a final event in April for the chance to win one of two $10,000 Innovation Prizes.  At the closing event in April two teams – one new business idea and one existing business that is able to incorporate use of one of the materials – will be crowned [Re]Verse champions.

Want to be one of the artists or entrepreneurs creating business waste solutions? Jump into Austin’s circular economy by attending or competing in this year’s opening pitch event. The first stage of the competition will be held at UT’s Rowling Hall on Monday, February 10 from 6 to 8 p.m., and is open to the public. To learn more, visit www.ReversePitch.org.

Sep 02, 2020 - 01:43 am CDT

 

By: Ashley Pace

With stay-at-home orders extending through the rest of this year, for many, home is now the office, the classroom, the playground and so much more. While commutes and school drop-off lines may not be an issue right now, the increased amount of trash you’re tossing in your cart might be. Back in March, Austin Resource Recovery suspended extra trash fees, but a recent vote from Council means those fees will be reinstated as of September 7. Lighten the load and save some cash with these tips.

Avoid excess trash by:

Avoid fees by:

  • Keeping heavy materials like rocks, gravel, construction debris and concrete out of your trash cart. Excess trash must weigh less than 50 pounds in order to be collected.
  • Setting all carts to the curb by 6:30 a.m. on your collection day and setting your carts five feet apart.
  • Purchasing excess garbage stickers for all extra trash bags for $4 (plus tax) at any local grocery store (bags without tags are collected for a fee of $9.60 plus tax).

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Road to Zero Waste
Aug 13, 2020 - 03:39 pm CDT

Zero Waste by 2040

By: Bailey Grimmett 

Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by 2040. Zero waste means keeping at least 90 percent of discarded materials out of landfills, and we’re still working towards that goal. How can Austin get into better 'zero waste' shape by 2040?

Here are five at-home exercises you can add to your daily routine to help Austin reach that zero waste goal from home!

Exercise #1: A waste reduction warm-up

Man rents a bicycle

Before buying or online shopping, find alternative options to buying ‘new’:

  • Rent what you don’t need every day. Do you regret purchasing a dress for that one event, or the equipment for that one project? Are these things now lurking in the corner of your closet or garage? Look online for rental options for everyday items—you may be surprised to find how many things are for rent just by typing “Rent [ITEM]” in your search bar.
  • Reuse your stuff in a creative way. Try turning a worn out t-shirt into a useful shopping bag or look for local businesses that sell secondhand or upcycled (i.e. things made out of other things) items. Many thrift stores are now offering online ordering, curbside pickups and outdoor sales.

Exercise #2: Repair your things, repeat

Woman uses a sewing machine to stitch a shirt

Fix what you already have by attending a Fix-It At Home! class. During these interactive, online classes, local instructors will teach you how to repair your broken items. Not only is it fun to pick up new skills, but you can save money and your treasured items in the process. Connect with fellow DIY repairers across the globe by following or posting the hashtag #FixAtHome.

Exercise #3: Food waste workout

Woman puts food scraps in Bokashi in-home composting system

Are you ordering more take-out? Learning to cook sourdough bread? Don’t trash the leftovers or food waste! Uneaten food is a valuable and natural resource that has many benefits. Find out how your food waste can benefit your home (apartments included)! You may even be eligible for a home composting or chicken keeping rebate.

Exercise #4: Yard trimmings and lawn care – breaking a sweat

Person used lawn mower to cut grass

More Austinites at home means more time for lawn care. Did you know there has been an 89 percent increase in yard trimmings collection in Austin since March 2020? Instead of removing yard trimmings, find out ways to put them to use. Try ‘grass-cycling,’ spend time with your family or roommates composting in the backyard, or turn your trimmings into mulch. Learn more about reusing your yard trimmings.

Exercise #5: Stretch your ‘stuff’

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

Give your unwanted items a second life by finding ways to keep them in use:

  • Share items in a safe and fun way. Try a social distance swap with your neighbors or find ways to share your items through the Buy Nothing Project.
  • Donate items to one of the many organizations on the Austin Reuse Directory. Be sure to call drop-off locations before visiting to learn about their COVID-19 safety protocols. If you are an Austin Resource Recovery customer and unable to drop off items, schedule a pick-up of unwanted clothing and housewares through the curbside collection program.

Post zero-waste workout tip

Cat buried in pile of bubble wrap

If you find yourself ordering things online more, you may have more packing materials such as cardboard boxes and bubble wrap in your home. With a 146 percent growth in all online retail orders, let’s make sure we’re recycling right when the time comes. Use our What do I do with tool or download the new Austin Recycles App for your Apple or Android device to find out what to do with just about anything.

Repeat these exercises daily and see results in just a few weeks!

For more ways to exercise your zero waste muscles at home, follow Austin Resource Recovery on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter for tips, how-to's, stories, news and inspirational ideas on rethinking your waste.


 

Road to Zero Waste
Aug 13, 2020 - 02:59 pm CDT

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

By: Natalie Betts

A fun way to be zero waste hero at home and in your neighborhood is by (safely) sharing or swapping items with your neighbors. If you’re feeling the need to freshen up your closet or your home, you don’t have to buy new to do it! Here’s how to organize your own social distance swap. Be sure to wipe down these materials and keep a safe social distance from others.

Step 1 

Decide what kind of swap you want to organize. You could swap clothing, home décor, art, jewelry, even tools.

Step 2

Find a friend or neighbor who wants to swap, or log onto your local or neighborhood communication channels to find others to participate.

Step 3

Find a box and fill it with the items that no longer work in your space, fit, or bring you joy. Wash or disinfect all the items before putting them in the box.

Step 4

Mask up, then set it on your friend’s or neighbor’s doorstep at an agreed-upon day. They can see what items they would like to keep, and then add their own items to the box to give back to you. Have your friend repeat the wash and disinfect process with their box.

Step 5

Discover new treasures when you get the box back! If you receive things that you don’t need or want, schedule a pick-up of these items for recycling and reuse through the Clothing and Housewares Curbside Collection Program (ARR customers only). Or use the Austin Reuse Directory to donate the items, or ask your friend if they might want them back.

Step 6

Celebrate! You just saved money, kept things out of the landfill and made a safe, socially-distanced connection with your community. Share photos and stories of how your new items are brightening up your home, and ask your fellow swap-ees to do the same.


 

Road to Zero Waste
May 18, 2020 - 01:06 pm CDT

Tammie Williamson

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

As we continue to Stay At Home – Work Safe, Austinites have taken to their yards to improve the homes that have become their offices in recent weeks. As such, the amount of yard trimmings collected by Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) has reached an all-time high. Between March 30 and April 3, ARR received 89% more yard trimmings than over the same time last year!

While impressed by the efforts of Austin residents to keep their outdoor spaces fresh, ARR operators are being taxed by the large volumes of material they collect, sometimes working up to 13-hour shifts. Here are some useful tips that will help you “recycle” your yard trimmings at home instead of discarding them in your green cart or lawn and leaf bags.

Austin Resource Recovery workers collect yard trimmings set out at the curb.

  1. Instead of bagging your grass clippings, try “grass-cycling.” Grass-cycling allows you to leave clippings on your lawn to decompose. Grass clippings contain moisture and valuable nutrients that can help nourish your lawn.
     
  2. Try your hand at backyard composting. Composting is a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, reduce your trash output, and generate a free, rich soil conditioner.
     
  3. Recycle your yard trimmings into mulch. Shredded fallen leaves and grass clippings work as a great mulch around shrubs, plants, and at the base of trees to prevent weed growth and keep your yard and garden healthy.
     
  4. Finally, know what belongs in your composting cart. Download the Austin Recycles app, which allows customers to search for items they are unsure of what to do with and learn how to dispose of them properly. It also provides reminders about regular trash, recycling, compost and other curbside collections, as well as alerts about collection delays or service interruptions. The app is available for iOS and Android.

Thank you for keeping Austin beautiful, even in this time of uncertainty. Happy mowing, trimming and mulching!

 

Road to Zero Waste
May 15, 2020 - 02:37 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

On Monday, April 27, four groups of entrepreneurs gathered online to pitch innovative business ideas to a panel of expert judges at the [Re]Verse Pit­ch competition. What makes these pitches stand out? Each business idea utilized products created out of byproduct material (material waste) from a local business. During the two-hour event, ideas from dog beds made out of scrap decorator fabric samples to indoor pots and planters made out of vinyl record scraps were pitched. But only two winners were chosen and awarded prizes totaling $20,000.

Terra Helmets

Terra Helmet engineering design graphic

Terra Helmets was one of the winning groups, which will be receiving $10,000 from the City of Austin to develop and expand their business idea: repurposing decorator fabric samples, vinyl record scraps and plastic sandals to create helmets for riders of electric rideshare scooters. Terra Helmets will be partnering with local companies for the byproduct materials, including Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association (IIDA) for the decorator fabric samples, Gold Rush Vinyl for the vinyl record scraps, and Travis County for the plastic sandals. These byproduct materials, which would normally be sent to the landfill, will be used to make durable helmets for local residents using electric scooters. Thanks to creators Aadhikesh Boopalam, Seniru Kottegoda and Collin McCloskey, these materials will have a new life. “Using byproduct materials from local businesses and turning them into helmets allows us to keep ‘waste’ out of the landfill and foster a safe community. We’re protecting the earth while protecting your head,” said McCloskey of Terra Helmets during their final pitch event.

LoFi Recycling Systems

Samantha Panger and Destin Douglas of LoFi Recycling Systems hold a pot they designed with recycled materials

The second winner, LoFi Recycling Systems, was awarded the other $10,000 to develop and expand their business, which repurposes vinyl record scraps into indoor pots and planters. These pots and planters are a creative solution to recycling polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which makes up the vinyl records. Although a widely used plastic, PVC can be very difficult to recycle. Samantha Panger and Destin Douglas of LoFi Recycling Systems saw the material’s potential as a resource and are hopeful their business will grow as a sustainable solution to the concern of byproduct waste. “We want to keep PVC from ever ending up in a landfill, and turn it into something useful,” says Panger. “We will be able to use and shape this material into pots and planters… it’s a new and exciting way to recycle plastic waste.

A final congratulations to the winners and finalists of the Reverse Pitch competition. Your inspiring and innovative solutions to keeping byproduct waste out of our landfills helps better our city in more ways than one. We applaud your efforts and participation in our Zero Waste competition series. Join us next year to see what creative solutions Austinites come up with next!   


The Reverse Pitch competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, launched on February 10 at the opening pitch event, where five businesses and nonprofits pitched their surplus materials to eligible competitors. Over the course of several weeks, competitors attended virtual workshops and developed their business models leading up to the finalist pitch event on April 27. Four finalists were selected to present at the finalist pitch event, with two chosen as winners splitting the $20,000 grand prize.

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 14, 2020 - 10:09 am CDT

Tammie Williamson

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas

As we Stay At Home – Work Safe, many of us have seen an increase in the amount of trash, recycling, compost and yard trimmings we are setting at the curb. Last week, Austin Resource Recovery Director Ken Snipes talked about what you can do to protect our waste collection workers. Another way to help is doing your part to sort and dispose of items the right way.

1. Know before you throw

Not sure what to do with used wipes, masks and rubber gloves? Learn what to do with each item you are trying to dispose of by playing the Austin Recycles Game, using our what do I do with...? tool or downloading the Austin Recycles App.

2. Fill your cart first

Curbside carts set out

We’ve waived all extra trash fees at this time, but we are asking that you secure all trash in plastic trash bags and fill your cart first. If your cart is full, securely tie any extra bags and leave them next to your trash cart.

Recyclables should be clean and loose in your carts. Fit as much as you can in the cart by breaking down boxes and crushing cans. If you have too much recycling to fit in your cart, you can use an extra box to fill with recyclables or call 3-1-1 to request a second recycle cart at no additional cost.

Make sure you fill your green compost cart first and put any extra yard trimmings in lawn and leaf bags.

3. Make the switch to reusable

There’s no better time than now to learn how to ditch single-use plastics and go reusable. One way to reduce the amount of waste you are hauling to the curb is by not generating that waste in the first place! Refuse plasticware on your take-out orders, use reusable containers for leftovers, or skip bottled water in favor of reusable cups or water bottles. Making small changes to your daily habits can add up to a lot of trash and recyclables that you’ll no longer be putting in your carts.


Every extra effort you can make to reduce your waste and educate yourself on how to dispose of items helps our employees stay safe on the job. Thank you for doing your part!

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 02, 2020 - 04:40 pm CDT

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

Over the past few weeks, we have seen strong interest regarding what we are doing to protect our waste collection workers. I’d like to highlight the importance of these critical workers and the vital role that they play to protect the health and safety of our community. I’d also like to underscore actions that both organizations and the public should consider in protecting our frontline workers.

Sanitation worker empties trash cart into trash truck

The front lines

Doctors, nurses, emergency medical service providers, first responders. These occupations are easily recognizable as “front line” service providers and deservedly so. They work tirelessly to test and treat those affected by COVID-19; coming in contact with the virus we still have much about which to learn. That said, seldom do we think about other occupations that are also out there on the front lines, like sanitation workers. Waste collection is critical to protect our people and communities. These workers are typically not who first come to mind when we think about the front lines, but I think they should be. Not ahead of any of the other frontline service providers, but right alongside them.

The 1918 Flu and waste collection

One of the great pandemics in our history was the 1918 flu. Worldwide, roughly 50 million people died from the disease, with about 675,000 deaths in the United States. The disease was so devastating that the life expectancy in the United States was lowered from 51 years in 1917 to 39 years in 1918. No one was spared!

In many cities, waste collection workers were hit especially hard. As the disease spread through and thinned their ranks, garbage piled up. In San Francisco, the issue was so significant; the city had no choice but to cover piles of garbage with dirt. In other cities along the east coast, trash piled up in the streets as high as two to three feet. As we fast forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 outbreak, the question before us now is, what have we learned from the 1918 outbreak and others that we can use to protect our waste collection workers?

Protecting our waste collection workers

Protections should begin with providing as much social distance as possible. An essential component of social distancing is to stay at home, but for our sanitation workers, that is not an option.

Organizations should explore opportunities to reduce the number of funnel points collection workers encounter daily. Considerations should include reducing the number of indoor meetings, engagements in tight quarters, and restricting daily access to and reliance on locker rooms. Industry leaders should also consider reducing three-person work crews to two-person teams, where feasible and safe to do so. Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including single-use and puncture-proof gloves, eye protection and, when available, masks should be strictly enforced. All vehicles, equipment and frequent touchpoints should be sanitized frequently.

Finally, there are steps the public can take to help protect waste collection workers too. They should be asked to bag and securely tie all trash, as collection workers should avoid coming into contact with loose trash. Additionally, the public can wipe down their cart handles when they set them out for collections.

Let’s all do our part to protect these unsung frontline workers so that they and their families remain safe and healthy.

Road to Zero Waste
Feb 06, 2020 - 12:02 pm CST

Woman recycles plastic bag with disgusted look on her face

By: Ashley Pace

Breakups are hard, but deep down you know it’s usually for the best. Especially, when you are breaking up with plastic bags. Many Austinites are in the habit of bringing their own bags to the grocery store, but there are a lot of unexpected ways to get more use out of the dozens of reusable bags you have likely accumulated. So as you say “bye bye bye” to flimsy single-use plastic bags forever, say hello to your new friend with benefits: the reusable bag.   

All the shopping

So you’ve finally gotten into the habit of bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. YAY! But what about other shopping around town? Bring your own bag to tote around clothes, hair products, to-go orders or convenience store grabs. 

Woman shops for clothing with her reusable bag

Daily grab-n-go items

Use your sturdy reusable bags to carry around your cosmetics, lunch, computer, or gym gear on a daily basis. 

Woman opens the door to the gym, carrying her reusable water bottle and reusable bag

The gift that keeps on giving

Many of the cute gift bags we see at the store are made with glitter, plastic and foil, all of which makes them unrecyclable. There are so many options for reusable totes that you can add to your already excellent gift by giving it in a reusable bag. 

Woman presents a gift to her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag

Fido forever

Dog carriers can be bulky and expensive, but with a great reusable bag, there is no need to purchase anything extra. Just pop your pup in and let them enjoy Austin’s amazing culture with you. 

Woman carries her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag to meet a friend

Pack a picnic

Take advantage of that spur-of-the-moment great weather and eat your lunch outside. Pack a picnic with all your treats and reusable gear and seize the day.   

Woman has a picnic with her Boston Terrier, using her reusable bag

Ending any relationship, especially one as long-term as your relationship with plastic bags can take time and dedication before you cut strings for good. With these tips, you can finally end that toxic relationship and move on to a greener, brighter future with your reusable bags. 

Don't forget to properly recycle the plastic bags you have.

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Road to Zero Waste
Feb 06, 2020 - 11:36 am CST

People in seats attending a Reverse Pitch opening pitch event

By: Bailey Grimmett

Each year, Austin entrepreneurs gather business ideas from a very unlikely source: local dumpsters. But not just any dumpster— a business’s dumpster. The annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a social innovation program that helps turn valuable raw materials that are currently leaving local businesses as waste into a resource for a new business.

The competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, starts with an opening pitch event and an audience of entrepreneurs. Unlike your traditional elevator pitch, [Re]Verse Pitch sets the stage for businesses and non-profits to pitch their material to an entrepreneur. Their goal? Inspire an innovator to take the pitched material, find a way to turn it into a resource for a new, successful business venture and ultimately keep the material out of the landfill.  By encouraging entrepreneurs to turn one business’s “waste” into their business’s resource, [Re]Verse pitch inspires profitable ventures while supporting a circular local economy.

For its fifth year, [Re]Verse Pitch is throwing it back… by bringing back previously pitched materials! Five businesses and nonprofits will take the stage to pitch their surplus materials which are the following:

  • Decorator fabric samples from Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association
  • Vinyl record defects and trimmings from Gold Rush Vinyl
  • Die-cut skeletons made of PVC/PEC from HID Global
  • Pressboard office furniture from University of Texas Resource Recovery
  • All-purpose PVC sandals from Travis County Sherriff’s Office

While these items may seem like waste to the untrained eye, this competition encourages entrepreneurs to view them as valuable resources, and find winning ways to put the materials to use.

During the coming months, entrepreneurs and teams will be matched to a mentor with whom they will create and refine a business idea using the pitched material. Qualifying business ideas and models will be pitched at a final event in April for the chance to win one of two $10,000 Innovation Prizes.  At the closing event in April two teams – one new business idea and one existing business that is able to incorporate use of one of the materials – will be crowned [Re]Verse champions.

Want to be one of the artists or entrepreneurs creating business waste solutions? Jump into Austin’s circular economy by attending or competing in this year’s opening pitch event. The first stage of the competition will be held at UT’s Rowling Hall on Monday, February 10 from 6 to 8 p.m., and is open to the public. To learn more, visit www.ReversePitch.org.

Road to Zero Waste