Apr 06, 2021 - 04:29 pm CDT

By: Ashley Pace

With April being Earth Month, it is the perfect time to level up your own environmental influencer status and help the City spread the word about our zero waste goal. Here are some simple things you can do: 

1. Set your City of Austin green composting cart to the curb every week.  

It’s time to apply the social pressure. We know that nearly half of what Austinites are sending to the landfill is compostable and, with our current composting set-out numbers averaging only 30 percent, we need help. Behavioral research shows that Austin Resource Recovery customers are more likely to set out their green composting cart if they see their neighbors doing it. Even if you have the only green cart on the block, and it only has a few measly scraps in it, set it out every week. This simple task may be just the nudge needed to get your neighbors to take the step themselves. 

2. Become a Zero Waste Block Leader.  

Join our fellowship of environmentally-minded Austinites and learn how to become a zero-waste guru for your community. We offer in-depth training, access to social media kits and print materials, tours of processing facilities and more. The program allows you to choose your desired level of involvement, while offering support and resources to help you be successful. Our Block Leaders are a vital piece of our strategy to reach zero waste and joining is a great way to get started on your journey to making an epic impact. The next orientation for Zero Waste Block Leaders is April 24.  

3. Follow and share our social content.

If you aren’t a joiner, another way you can help is by simply following our social accounts and sharing the content we post (@AustinRecycles on Facebook). Doing so is a super easy and effective way for us and you to mutually benefit from each other. You get the benefit of daily tips, tricks and environmentally focused content, and we get the benefit of additional reach beyond our own social media following. It’s a win/win. 

You'll be influencing those around you to live a zero waste lifestyle in no time.

Tagged:
Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

The City’s annual [Re]Verse Pitch competition is over, and the winning ideas are more creative and resourceful than ever! In its sixth year, [Re]Verse Pitch continues to help reduce waste in the business community by connecting local businesses that have unwanted or surplus materials with entrepreneurs who can help find a solution to keep these materials in use and out of our landfill.

This year’s winners, known as Innovation Fellows, will take their business ideas and join a virtual four-month accelerator program, where they will develop their ideas further and present them to a cohort of investors as part of the City’s inaugural Circular Austin showcase this summer.

Here are the ideas we can expect to see at the Circular Austin showcase:

 

Plant Baxter concept by Jordan Smith, Coleman Counihan and Daniel Barrios. Plant Baxter plans to create container gardens using unwanted large plastic sacks from Austin Eastciders and reclaimed wood from the construction industry.

 

DV Designs concept by Vincent Marsella and Deepak Chandra. DV Designs plans to create beverage coasters using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

 

Biochar Filter Socks concept by Petey Peterson and Seth Nyer. Locoal, an existing Austin-area company, plans to create ‘wattle socks,’ which help prevent soil erosion and capture toxins from storm-water runoff, using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery and used wooden pallets.

 

Lola's Classic Babies concept by Lolita Rodriguez and Lucero Valle Archuleta. Lola's Classic Babies, a woman-owned baby brand in Austin, plans to create bow ties using unwanted fabric decorator samples from Austin Creative Reuse.

 

The Innovation Fellows also receive prizes valued up to $8,500, in-kind prizes and more. Congratulations to our [Re]Verse Pitch winners!

Apr 02, 2021 - 10:39 am CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

A new networking series, hosted by the City of Austin, is bringing together businesses from all over Austin with one goal in mind: to reduce waste. The lunchtime networking series invites local, ‘circular’ businesses to connect virtually over good conversation, speaker presentations and dreams of a circular future (which is not far off).

If you've never heard of a circular business, these are the ones reducing waste just by the nature of their business. This can include thrift stores selling secondhand items, repair shops, recyclers, businesses providing sharing services and more. Each of these businesses is either reducing waste throughout their daily operations or providing services that keep you, the customer, from buying newly produced items. 

Circular businesses are part of a growing industry in Austin with a large economic impact, supporting over $1 billion in local economic activity and over 6,300 jobs. The City is offering specialized assistance to promote business growth, job creation and connections within this industry to assist with growth and expansion.

Two such businesses recently connected during the City’s Circular Meet-ups series, and shared their story with us.

Founders Cristina Guerra of Luxe Refill, a sustainable bath and beauty brand, and Yogesh Sharma of Trashless, a zero waste local grocery delivery service, both attended a meet-up in December and happened to cross paths in one of the breakout rooms (networking at work, folks). In the coming weeks, they connected and formed a quick and successful partnership that has tangible results today.

Currently, both businesses have integrated their services online and are renting a shared space to help cut costs, reduce waste and grow their businesses. “The Circular Meet-up was exactly what I needed to make a successful connection, and helped us grow our businesses together,” said Guerra.

We can’t wait to see what their businesses have in store for us.

Join us for our next Circular Meet-Up! Upcoming events will be posted through the City of Austin’s Circular Economy Program.

Mar 11, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

As we enter mid-March and consistently warmer weather is in our near future, you know what time it is for many of us? That’s right! Time to declutter, clean and shake the dust off!

Spring cleaning, or decluttering any time of the year, can be a big overwhelming task. Can I get rid of this or should I save it? Where should all this stuff even go? Will anyone actually use this thing? A few questions we’ve all asked ourselves at some point.


Here are some tips on how to make your spring cleaning a little easier and more zero waste:  

Separate your stuff into different categories

As you go through your closets, drawers, old medicine cabinet and the shed consider where those items you no longer want might end up. Make four separate categories:

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

Have something that’s broken that you actually need? Before you just dump it and replace it with a new one, consider if you can repair it. We have some great Fix-It classes posted online for repairing common household items: guitars, bicycles, and basic sewing. Austin Public Library also has a database of repair guides for: home and furnitureelectronics, instruments, and appliancestextiles and miscellaneous items
 

Give to your local community

Those items you don’t want could be just what someone else needs! Keep in mind all the different options out there for giving your goods. 

  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers if they want anything.

  • Offer the items on a community group like: Buy Nothing, Nextdoor, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or many others. Some items may have a monetary value, others are great to just give away.

  • Donate to your favorite nonprofit or thrift store. Keep in mind different organizations may take different stuff. Arts and crafts materials or items for repurposing could go to a school or a reuse store. Some nonprofits or a local repair center will often take repairable items. Check the organization's website or call to confirm.

  • Request a clothing and housewares curbside collection. Submit a request and our collection partners will pick the items up at your curbside. They even take broken, non-usable items like old electrical cords, small appliances and single shoes for reuse or recycle. It's easy!
     

Learn where it should go

We have a couple different tools to help you find the perfect home for that item you don’t need anymore. Even things you think are waste may be able to be reused or recycled.

  • Search the What do I do with...? tool to find out if your item could be recycled, composted, repurposed, repaired and more!

  • Use the Austin Reuse Directory to search for available outlets for your usable items.
     

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

If all else fails, often the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center can take it. Be sure to check the acceptable materials list. Old cleaning chemicals and paints? Sure! Broken appliances or electronics big and small? You bet! Batteries, lightbulbs, plastic film and even styrofoam? Oh yea! Other hard plastics, broken lawn furniture, kiddie pools, and pet carriers? Bring ‘em on! The center recently reopened after a temporary closure due to COVID-19. Masks and appointments are required.
 

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

We all know what happens once we purge all that old stuff; we often fill up with new. Some things to keep in mind and ask this year before new purchases, once you’ve cleared some space: 

  • Do I really need this item? Will I use it long term?  Will it last? Is it easily repairable if it breaks? 

  • Is this something I won’t use often that I could rent or borrow instead of buying? Check with your communities, make a request in a Rent Anything, Buy Nothing or sharing community group before you make a purchase, especially if it’s for a very specific project or occasion. We all know those scuba flippers, roller skates, puzzles and craft sets start to collect dust after the immediate event or planned activity we needed them for passes us by.  

  • If you do decide it’s worth buying, can you support our circular economy with your purchase? Is this something I can purchase from a reuse or thrift store? Can I buy one made of recycled materials? New doesn’t always mean better. In fact, it is often the items with a great story or history behind them that become long-term keepsakes for many of us. Learn more about how to shop zero waste.


We hope some of these tips and tools help as you dust off the cobwebs and clear the air. Spring is a time for renewal, not just for your closet...but for our planet. Thank you for keeping zero waste and our environment in mind as you declutter your home this year. 

Mar 10, 2021 - 05:06 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

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


After a year of homes serving as makeshift classrooms, many parents have exhausted their creativity muscle to keep little ones entertained outside of virtual learning. Not to fear, Austin Resource Recovery is here to help you find ways to engage with your kiddos this spring break. These activities will encourage your kids to close the laptops, pause Netflix and teach zero waste practices, all while offering some hands-on fun!

  • Leaf threading – Spring is a great time to get outside and explore. Venture into the backyard or take a walk around your neighborhood on a scavenger hunt for your supplies. Keep your eyes peeled for twigs, which will act like your “needles,” and colorful, unique fallen leaves. Once you’ve gathered your supplies, tie some jute twine to your “needle” and get threading. This activity encourages hand-eye coordination and motor skills while developing your child’s connection to nature. After you’ve completed your banner of leaves, use them as decoration or hang them from a tree in your yard and watch as their colors change.
     
  • Recycled paper seed balls – If you’re looking to take a break from school but not from education this spring break, consider making seed balls with your kids. You can easily accomplish this DIY with items you already have around the house, including paper (old worksheets, junk mail, etc.), water, a blender, and the pack of seeds you never got around to planting in your garden. The project may even spark conversations about where paper comes from and why it is important to reuse and recycle items. Help them grow as they grow fresh flowers and herbs of their own.
     
  • Paint with nature – Austin weather can be unpredictable, especially during the springtime; if you are stuck inside due to rain over the break, don’t forget about all the fun that can be found in your kitchen cupboards and fridge. Painting is an excellent pastime on a rainy day, and you can create your paints using crushed blueberries on the verge of spoiling or paprika from the pantry. Experimenting with color is a fun art lesson and will result in a masterpiece to help you commemorate the day.

As we continue to socially distance and stay safe at home, there is still so much fun and adventure to be had all around. Happy spring break!

Feb 04, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Austin Resource Recovery drives the launch of a sustainable storage solution for Austin’s most vulnerable population during a global pandemic

By: Ashley Pace, Public Information Specialist Senior

Violet KeepSafe Storage offers a free, safe storage option to Austinites experiencing homelessness as they navigate their way around the community and out of homelessness. The program currently operates out of the former Health South Building on East 12th street, housing hundreds of purple bins with locks to protect important documents, meaningful keepsakes, and bulky personal items like work boots, blankets, winter coats and more. The program lightens the load so that Austinites experiencing homelessness can rest assured that their possessions are safe when they go to interviews, seek out services or go about their daily lives without the burden of carrying around items they don’t need daily.

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) first became involved in City initiatives to provide services designed to end community homelessness through the Office of Design and Delivery pilot of the Violet Bag Program in 2019. The Violet Bag Program provides people experiencing homelessness with access to kiosks loaded with violet trash bags and daily pickup collection to help residents keep their area and the community clean and safe. Presently, the pilot has expanded to 44 kiosks all around Austin, and City staff continue to work to identify areas where additional kiosks may be beneficial.

While this program does not directly contribute to ARR’s mission of providing services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean, ARR Director Ken Snipes learned the importance of prioritizing our most vulnerable population during his former role in Seattle. Amidst a global pandemic, he answered the City’s call to deliver services aimed at ending homelessness in Austin and tasked ARR staff with collaborating with the Office of Design and Delivery, Austin Homeless Advisory Council and members of the Austin design community to launch the program in April 2020.

“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Snipes said. “As I saw during my work in Seattle, and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”

During operational hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. –10 a.m., 3 p.m.–7 p.m.) people experiencing homelessness can access their storage bin by presenting their bin tag, key or other identifying documents to an attendant who delivers the bin to a private area. As the program grows, the City will coordinate with service providers to make case managers available for assistance and guidance to people experiencing homelessness. The program has recently changed hands in management and the Downtown Austin Community Court now operates it. The City also plans to expand the program to include satellite storage locations throughout the City.

Feb 01, 2021 - 04:34 pm CST

Green compost cart with hearts around it

By: Ashley Pace

The final expansion of the City’s Curbside Composting Program is rolling out this month. So now that you either have a green composting cart or soon will, it’s time to talk about why you should use it. Here are three short and simple reasons why you should compost as much as possible:

1. It will save you money

Putting your food scraps and food-soiled paper in your green composting cart means you have less to put in your trash cart each week and you might be able to get a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Customers who currently have the largest trash cart size at 96-gallons could save over $320 a year by downsizing to the smallest, 24-gallon cart. 

2. It saves room in the landfill for actual trash

A recent study shows that 46 percent of what Austinites send to community landfills could have been composted. Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) currently uses the Texas Disposal Systems Landfill for all of ARR’s trash and they are projecting that it will be full in another 13 years. A full landfill means a closed landfill, and a closed landfill means that Austin will have to find a new place to send trash. That could mean Austin needs to find a new place for another landfill or higher transportation costs to ship trash out to existing landfills farther away. 

3. It creates a valuable product

After ARR trucks pick up the compostable material from your green cart, it is taken to an industrial facility where it is turned into nutrient-rich compost. Compost can be used as a chemical-free fertilizer and helps with water retention in soil, creating a healthier environment. When sent to a landfill instead, those same materials don’t turn into anything of value and break down without oxygen, creating harmful greenhouse gases.


Austin's zero waste goal

The City of Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by the year 2040. Getting there will mean all Austinites reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much as possible to make sure we are leaving behind a city and a planet the next generation will be proud to inherit. We have a big goal Austin, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together.

Although having a new service can feel overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. Follow this guide and you will be composting like a pro with your new curbside composting collection service in no time.

Jan 27, 2021 - 12:12 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

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


Taking care of our community and our planet does not mean we have to sacrifice caring for ourselves. Self-care is an essential part of living a healthful life, but often self-care items are marketed at luxury prices and packaged with single-use plastic. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make self-care part of your daily routine and live a zero waste lifestyle at the same time.

For many of us, coffee is already a big part of our morning routine, but did you know that coffee can help you wake up your skin? Reuse your morning coffee grounds to make a simple DIY coffee scrub. The caffeine in the grounds can help your skin look firmer, and it acts as an exfoliant – sluffing away dead skin for a more rejuvenated face and body.

Another simple self-care swap you can make is to replace your disposable cotton rounds with reusable bamboo rounds. This easy trade off not only helps you live more sustainably by limiting your use of single-use, disposable cotton products but ensures you'll never run out of cotton rounds again. Bamboo rounds are machine washable and you can use them repeatedly, no more late-night trips to the corner drugstore.

Finally, many of us have come to know and love the versatility of coconut oil in the kitchen, but did you know it has a place on your bathroom counter? You can use coconut oil for everything from make-up remover to a sunburn remedy. Dab a small amount of coconut oil under your eye to help prevent wrinkles, use it to moisturize and soothe dry skin and use it as a natural lip balm. Better add two jars of coconut oil to your next shopping list.

Now, more than ever before, I encourage everyone to take time for themselves. Try to take a moment every day to do something small for yourself, and bring a little self-care into your daily routine. Happy relaxing!

Tagged:
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.

Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

The City’s annual [Re]Verse Pitch competition is over, and the winning ideas are more creative and resourceful than ever! In its sixth year, [Re]Verse Pitch continues to help reduce waste in the business community by connecting local businesses that have unwanted or surplus materials with entrepreneurs who can help find a solution to keep these materials in use and out of our landfill.

This year’s winners, known as Innovation Fellows, will take their business ideas and join a virtual four-month accelerator program, where they will develop their ideas further and present them to a cohort of investors as part of the City’s inaugural Circular Austin showcase this summer.

Here are the ideas we can expect to see at the Circular Austin showcase:

 

Plant Baxter concept by Jordan Smith, Coleman Counihan and Daniel Barrios. Plant Baxter plans to create container gardens using unwanted large plastic sacks from Austin Eastciders and reclaimed wood from the construction industry.

 

DV Designs concept by Vincent Marsella and Deepak Chandra. DV Designs plans to create beverage coasters using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

 

Biochar Filter Socks concept by Petey Peterson and Seth Nyer. Locoal, an existing Austin-area company, plans to create ‘wattle socks,’ which help prevent soil erosion and capture toxins from storm-water runoff, using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery and used wooden pallets.

 

Lola's Classic Babies concept by Lolita Rodriguez and Lucero Valle Archuleta. Lola's Classic Babies, a woman-owned baby brand in Austin, plans to create bow ties using unwanted fabric decorator samples from Austin Creative Reuse.

 

The Innovation Fellows also receive prizes valued up to $8,500, in-kind prizes and more. Congratulations to our [Re]Verse Pitch winners!

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 02, 2021 - 10:39 am CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

A new networking series, hosted by the City of Austin, is bringing together businesses from all over Austin with one goal in mind: to reduce waste. The lunchtime networking series invites local, ‘circular’ businesses to connect virtually over good conversation, speaker presentations and dreams of a circular future (which is not far off).

If you've never heard of a circular business, these are the ones reducing waste just by the nature of their business. This can include thrift stores selling secondhand items, repair shops, recyclers, businesses providing sharing services and more. Each of these businesses is either reducing waste throughout their daily operations or providing services that keep you, the customer, from buying newly produced items. 

Circular businesses are part of a growing industry in Austin with a large economic impact, supporting over $1 billion in local economic activity and over 6,300 jobs. The City is offering specialized assistance to promote business growth, job creation and connections within this industry to assist with growth and expansion.

Two such businesses recently connected during the City’s Circular Meet-ups series, and shared their story with us.

Founders Cristina Guerra of Luxe Refill, a sustainable bath and beauty brand, and Yogesh Sharma of Trashless, a zero waste local grocery delivery service, both attended a meet-up in December and happened to cross paths in one of the breakout rooms (networking at work, folks). In the coming weeks, they connected and formed a quick and successful partnership that has tangible results today.

Currently, both businesses have integrated their services online and are renting a shared space to help cut costs, reduce waste and grow their businesses. “The Circular Meet-up was exactly what I needed to make a successful connection, and helped us grow our businesses together,” said Guerra.

We can’t wait to see what their businesses have in store for us.

Join us for our next Circular Meet-Up! Upcoming events will be posted through the City of Austin’s Circular Economy Program.

Road to Zero Waste
Mar 11, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

As we enter mid-March and consistently warmer weather is in our near future, you know what time it is for many of us? That’s right! Time to declutter, clean and shake the dust off!

Spring cleaning, or decluttering any time of the year, can be a big overwhelming task. Can I get rid of this or should I save it? Where should all this stuff even go? Will anyone actually use this thing? A few questions we’ve all asked ourselves at some point.


Here are some tips on how to make your spring cleaning a little easier and more zero waste:  

Separate your stuff into different categories

As you go through your closets, drawers, old medicine cabinet and the shed consider where those items you no longer want might end up. Make four separate categories:

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

Have something that’s broken that you actually need? Before you just dump it and replace it with a new one, consider if you can repair it. We have some great Fix-It classes posted online for repairing common household items: guitars, bicycles, and basic sewing. Austin Public Library also has a database of repair guides for: home and furnitureelectronics, instruments, and appliancestextiles and miscellaneous items
 

Give to your local community

Those items you don’t want could be just what someone else needs! Keep in mind all the different options out there for giving your goods. 

  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers if they want anything.

  • Offer the items on a community group like: Buy Nothing, Nextdoor, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or many others. Some items may have a monetary value, others are great to just give away.

  • Donate to your favorite nonprofit or thrift store. Keep in mind different organizations may take different stuff. Arts and crafts materials or items for repurposing could go to a school or a reuse store. Some nonprofits or a local repair center will often take repairable items. Check the organization's website or call to confirm.

  • Request a clothing and housewares curbside collection. Submit a request and our collection partners will pick the items up at your curbside. They even take broken, non-usable items like old electrical cords, small appliances and single shoes for reuse or recycle. It's easy!
     

Learn where it should go

We have a couple different tools to help you find the perfect home for that item you don’t need anymore. Even things you think are waste may be able to be reused or recycled.

  • Search the What do I do with...? tool to find out if your item could be recycled, composted, repurposed, repaired and more!

  • Use the Austin Reuse Directory to search for available outlets for your usable items.
     

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

If all else fails, often the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center can take it. Be sure to check the acceptable materials list. Old cleaning chemicals and paints? Sure! Broken appliances or electronics big and small? You bet! Batteries, lightbulbs, plastic film and even styrofoam? Oh yea! Other hard plastics, broken lawn furniture, kiddie pools, and pet carriers? Bring ‘em on! The center recently reopened after a temporary closure due to COVID-19. Masks and appointments are required.
 

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

We all know what happens once we purge all that old stuff; we often fill up with new. Some things to keep in mind and ask this year before new purchases, once you’ve cleared some space: 

  • Do I really need this item? Will I use it long term?  Will it last? Is it easily repairable if it breaks? 

  • Is this something I won’t use often that I could rent or borrow instead of buying? Check with your communities, make a request in a Rent Anything, Buy Nothing or sharing community group before you make a purchase, especially if it’s for a very specific project or occasion. We all know those scuba flippers, roller skates, puzzles and craft sets start to collect dust after the immediate event or planned activity we needed them for passes us by.  

  • If you do decide it’s worth buying, can you support our circular economy with your purchase? Is this something I can purchase from a reuse or thrift store? Can I buy one made of recycled materials? New doesn’t always mean better. In fact, it is often the items with a great story or history behind them that become long-term keepsakes for many of us. Learn more about how to shop zero waste.


We hope some of these tips and tools help as you dust off the cobwebs and clear the air. Spring is a time for renewal, not just for your closet...but for our planet. Thank you for keeping zero waste and our environment in mind as you declutter your home this year. 

Road to Zero Waste
Mar 10, 2021 - 05:06 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

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


After a year of homes serving as makeshift classrooms, many parents have exhausted their creativity muscle to keep little ones entertained outside of virtual learning. Not to fear, Austin Resource Recovery is here to help you find ways to engage with your kiddos this spring break. These activities will encourage your kids to close the laptops, pause Netflix and teach zero waste practices, all while offering some hands-on fun!

  • Leaf threading – Spring is a great time to get outside and explore. Venture into the backyard or take a walk around your neighborhood on a scavenger hunt for your supplies. Keep your eyes peeled for twigs, which will act like your “needles,” and colorful, unique fallen leaves. Once you’ve gathered your supplies, tie some jute twine to your “needle” and get threading. This activity encourages hand-eye coordination and motor skills while developing your child’s connection to nature. After you’ve completed your banner of leaves, use them as decoration or hang them from a tree in your yard and watch as their colors change.
     
  • Recycled paper seed balls – If you’re looking to take a break from school but not from education this spring break, consider making seed balls with your kids. You can easily accomplish this DIY with items you already have around the house, including paper (old worksheets, junk mail, etc.), water, a blender, and the pack of seeds you never got around to planting in your garden. The project may even spark conversations about where paper comes from and why it is important to reuse and recycle items. Help them grow as they grow fresh flowers and herbs of their own.
     
  • Paint with nature – Austin weather can be unpredictable, especially during the springtime; if you are stuck inside due to rain over the break, don’t forget about all the fun that can be found in your kitchen cupboards and fridge. Painting is an excellent pastime on a rainy day, and you can create your paints using crushed blueberries on the verge of spoiling or paprika from the pantry. Experimenting with color is a fun art lesson and will result in a masterpiece to help you commemorate the day.

As we continue to socially distance and stay safe at home, there is still so much fun and adventure to be had all around. Happy spring break!

Road to Zero Waste
Feb 04, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Austin Resource Recovery drives the launch of a sustainable storage solution for Austin’s most vulnerable population during a global pandemic

By: Ashley Pace, Public Information Specialist Senior

Violet KeepSafe Storage offers a free, safe storage option to Austinites experiencing homelessness as they navigate their way around the community and out of homelessness. The program currently operates out of the former Health South Building on East 12th street, housing hundreds of purple bins with locks to protect important documents, meaningful keepsakes, and bulky personal items like work boots, blankets, winter coats and more. The program lightens the load so that Austinites experiencing homelessness can rest assured that their possessions are safe when they go to interviews, seek out services or go about their daily lives without the burden of carrying around items they don’t need daily.

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) first became involved in City initiatives to provide services designed to end community homelessness through the Office of Design and Delivery pilot of the Violet Bag Program in 2019. The Violet Bag Program provides people experiencing homelessness with access to kiosks loaded with violet trash bags and daily pickup collection to help residents keep their area and the community clean and safe. Presently, the pilot has expanded to 44 kiosks all around Austin, and City staff continue to work to identify areas where additional kiosks may be beneficial.

While this program does not directly contribute to ARR’s mission of providing services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean, ARR Director Ken Snipes learned the importance of prioritizing our most vulnerable population during his former role in Seattle. Amidst a global pandemic, he answered the City’s call to deliver services aimed at ending homelessness in Austin and tasked ARR staff with collaborating with the Office of Design and Delivery, Austin Homeless Advisory Council and members of the Austin design community to launch the program in April 2020.

“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Snipes said. “As I saw during my work in Seattle, and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”

During operational hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. –10 a.m., 3 p.m.–7 p.m.) people experiencing homelessness can access their storage bin by presenting their bin tag, key or other identifying documents to an attendant who delivers the bin to a private area. As the program grows, the City will coordinate with service providers to make case managers available for assistance and guidance to people experiencing homelessness. The program has recently changed hands in management and the Downtown Austin Community Court now operates it. The City also plans to expand the program to include satellite storage locations throughout the City.

Road to Zero Waste
Feb 01, 2021 - 04:34 pm CST

Green compost cart with hearts around it

By: Ashley Pace

The final expansion of the City’s Curbside Composting Program is rolling out this month. So now that you either have a green composting cart or soon will, it’s time to talk about why you should use it. Here are three short and simple reasons why you should compost as much as possible:

1. It will save you money

Putting your food scraps and food-soiled paper in your green composting cart means you have less to put in your trash cart each week and you might be able to get a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Customers who currently have the largest trash cart size at 96-gallons could save over $320 a year by downsizing to the smallest, 24-gallon cart. 

2. It saves room in the landfill for actual trash

A recent study shows that 46 percent of what Austinites send to community landfills could have been composted. Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) currently uses the Texas Disposal Systems Landfill for all of ARR’s trash and they are projecting that it will be full in another 13 years. A full landfill means a closed landfill, and a closed landfill means that Austin will have to find a new place to send trash. That could mean Austin needs to find a new place for another landfill or higher transportation costs to ship trash out to existing landfills farther away. 

3. It creates a valuable product

After ARR trucks pick up the compostable material from your green cart, it is taken to an industrial facility where it is turned into nutrient-rich compost. Compost can be used as a chemical-free fertilizer and helps with water retention in soil, creating a healthier environment. When sent to a landfill instead, those same materials don’t turn into anything of value and break down without oxygen, creating harmful greenhouse gases.


Austin's zero waste goal

The City of Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by the year 2040. Getting there will mean all Austinites reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much as possible to make sure we are leaving behind a city and a planet the next generation will be proud to inherit. We have a big goal Austin, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together.

Although having a new service can feel overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. Follow this guide and you will be composting like a pro with your new curbside composting collection service in no time.

Road to Zero Waste
Jan 27, 2021 - 12:12 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

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


Taking care of our community and our planet does not mean we have to sacrifice caring for ourselves. Self-care is an essential part of living a healthful life, but often self-care items are marketed at luxury prices and packaged with single-use plastic. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make self-care part of your daily routine and live a zero waste lifestyle at the same time.

For many of us, coffee is already a big part of our morning routine, but did you know that coffee can help you wake up your skin? Reuse your morning coffee grounds to make a simple DIY coffee scrub. The caffeine in the grounds can help your skin look firmer, and it acts as an exfoliant – sluffing away dead skin for a more rejuvenated face and body.

Another simple self-care swap you can make is to replace your disposable cotton rounds with reusable bamboo rounds. This easy trade off not only helps you live more sustainably by limiting your use of single-use, disposable cotton products but ensures you'll never run out of cotton rounds again. Bamboo rounds are machine washable and you can use them repeatedly, no more late-night trips to the corner drugstore.

Finally, many of us have come to know and love the versatility of coconut oil in the kitchen, but did you know it has a place on your bathroom counter? You can use coconut oil for everything from make-up remover to a sunburn remedy. Dab a small amount of coconut oil under your eye to help prevent wrinkles, use it to moisturize and soothe dry skin and use it as a natural lip balm. Better add two jars of coconut oil to your next shopping list.

Now, more than ever before, I encourage everyone to take time for themselves. Try to take a moment every day to do something small for yourself, and bring a little self-care into your daily routine. Happy relaxing!

Tagged:
Road to Zero Waste
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. 

Road to Zero Waste
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