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Frequently Asked Questions

The Universal Recycling Ordinance (referred to throughout the FAQ’s as “URO” or “the Ordinance”) supports Austin’s Zero Waste goal by requiring affected property owners to ensure that tenants and employees have access to convenient recycling.  The Ordinance is intended to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts, and encourage economic development.

The Ordinance requires property owners, or their designees, to ensure the following: 

1. recyclables 2. dumpster 3. URO poster 4. hands raised 5. recycling plan
Recycling services for plastics #1 & #2, paper, cardboard, glass and aluminum Sufficient capacity and convenient location Informational signage in English and Spanish Regular tenant and employee education Annual Recycling Plan Forms

 

Properties will be phased in over time. By Oct. 1, 2017, all commercial properties and multifamily properties with 5 or more units will be required to ensure convenient and compliant recycling services are available to tenants and employees. Businesses with food service permits will be required to implement an Organics Diversion program, starting with businesses larger than 15,000 square feet on Oct. 1, 2016. All businesses with food service permits will be required to divert food scraps by Oct. 1, 2018. More information available here.

The URO is rolling out over a five-year period, starting Oct. 1, 2012 and affecting smaller properties each year. By Oct. 2017, all commercial and multifamily properties will need to ensure convenient and compliant recycling services are available to tenants and employees.

Properties with food service permits will be required to implement an Organics Diversion Program starting Oct. 1, 2016 with all food service establishments affected within three years.

Properties are subject to the URO beginning: Multifamily properties with: Commercial office buildings larger than: Other commercial properties larger than: Organics Diversion requirements for food service permitted businesses larger than:
10/1/2012 75 or more dwelling units 100,000 SF    
10/1/2013 50 or more dwelling units 75,000 SF    
10/1/2014 25 or more dwelling units 50,000 SF 50,000 SF  
10/1/2015 10 or more dwelling units 25,000 SF 25,000 SF  
10/1/2016 All properties 5,000 SF 5,000 SF 15,000 SF
10/1/2017   All properties All properties 5,000 SF
10/1/2018       All food service permitted businesses

 

The phase-in approach was the result of months of stakeholder meetings with businesses, haulers, and the public. The goal of the phase-in approach is to implement zero waste policies in a manner that supports investment in infrastructure (bins, education, capacity) while balancing costs to businesses and progress towards Austin’s Zero Waste goal. 

As of October 1, 2016, the URO affects commercial properties 5,000 square feet and larger and all multifamily properties. By October 1, 2017, all commercial and multifamily properties will be affected. Five requirements are necessary to comply with the URO recycling requirements:

  1. Recycling services available for five materials at a minimum (Plastics #1 & #2, Paper, Cardboard, Glass, Aluminum)
  2. Sufficient collection-container capacity
  3. Exterior recycling collection container within 25-feet of landfill trash containers
  4. Informational signs in English and Spanish and annual tenant and employee education
  5. Submit Annual Diversion Plan each year by Feb 1st.

Affected properties must submit the online Recycling Plan by Feb. 1 of each year. Properties have the opportunity to submit a waiver or alternative compliance request through the Recycling Plan.

Properties are required to offer recycling for these materials (at a minimum):

Paper Plastics #1 and #2 aluminum Glass cardboard
Paper (including mixed paper and office paper) PETE and HDPE plastic (#1 and #2) Aluminum cans Glass bottles and jars Cardboard and boxboard

*Alternative materials can be proposed in the annual Recycling Plan Form

Onsite composting of yard trimmings, food scraps or other compostable materials may be approved on a case-by-case basis by the Austin Resource Recovery Director as an alternative collection method if well managed and not a nuisance or sanitation problem.

Though composting is one way to divert compostable materials from landfills, there are other ways to divert these materials to higher and better uses (see EPA's Food Hierarchy below).

Food recovery hierarchy

Image source: http://www.epa.gov/smm/foodrecovery/

The URO Organics Diversion requirements affect the largest food service businesses (over 15,000 square feet) beginning October 1, 2016 and phase in over three years. All Austin businesses with food permits will be affected by these requirements on October 1, 2018.

The intent is that employees and tenants have access to food scrap diversion program (e.g. donation, food to farms or composting) and does not require (but, does encourage) diversion of post-consumer food scraps. Minimum requirements include:

  1. Submit Organics Diversion Plan, by Feb. 1 each year
  2. Reduce or divert organic material generated onsite, on a weekly basis
  3. Post informational sings in English and Spanish
  4. Educate employees about the organics diversion program annually and within 30 days of hire
  5. If applicable, place exterior organics collection containers within 25-feet of landfill trash containers

For more information visit austintexas.gov/bizorganics

The goal of the URO is to ensure tenants and employees have access to well-marked and convenient recycling. The Administrative Rules set standards that include the following:

Multifamily/Condominium Property Capacity Requirements:

Recycling capacity must be equal to or greater than 6.4 gallons per dwelling unit, per week.

Commercial/Office/industrial Property Capacity Requirements:

Recycling capacity must be equal to, or greater than, 50 percent of the total weekly service capacity for all materials. In other words, recycling and trash capacities must be at a 1 to 1 ratio. For example, if you have a 6-yard trash dumpster collected once per week, you would need the equivalent of 6-yards of recycling container collected every week. NOTE: Containers can be different sizes, as long as the collection frequency equals 1-to-1 trash recycling.

Convenience:

To ensure convenient access for tenants or employees, all exterior recycling containers much be located within 25 feet of exterior trash containers (including dumpsters, carts or other containers). Properties may request a Waiver when submitting an Annual Diversion Plan, if a property has unique geographic or facility layout challenges. Waivers are reviewed by staff and if granted, are only good for one reporting period.

For questions about capacity, container placement or waivers, please contact CommercialRecycling@austintexas.gov.

Properties must provide signage that includes the following:

  • Indicate recyclable materials accepted
  • Use graphic illustrations
  • Include English and Spanish

URO Poster

Contact your licensed service provider or hauler for URO compliant signage for exterior containers or click here for free signage and other useful tools.

To complement educational materials provided by private haulers, Austin Resource Recovery provides free signage and educational materials for recycling and composting programs on our website. To request labels for your recycling containers, please contact us at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com.

Properties are required to:

  • Educate tenants and employees about recycling opportunities on the property annually
  • Educate new tenants and employees within 30 days of move in or hire.
  • Education may include brochures, fliers, emails, meetings, etc.

Austin Resource Recovery’s free signage and educational materials for recycling and composting programs can be found on our website. For additional assistance, please contact Austin Resource Recovery staff at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com.

Find the Annual Diversion Plan at www.austintexas.gov/diversionplan. If you need help completing the form, please contact Austin Resource Recovery staff at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com.

Remember, Annual Diversion Plans are due by Feb. 1 of each year.

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) mails one letter to the property owner of record and one to the affected property address in advance of their Oct. 1 effective date each year. Following this initial contact, ARR then reaches out to each affected property owner and offers one-on-one assistance over the phone, via e-mail, and through site visits. ARR also works with various business, real estate and property management organizations to help spread the word about recycling requirements. ARR uses print and digital advertisements in targeted publications to inform the public about the Universal Recycling Ordinance and to advertise the resources that are available.

The Ordinance requires property owners, or their designee, to ensure a compliant recycling program is available to tenants and employees.

Each year, affected properties complete the online Annual Diversion Plan to report their level of service and education efforts. In addition, City staff may respond to complaints and inspect properties to confirm compliance with the URO.

During the first year after a property becomes subject to the URO, City staff will provide education and technical assistance to owners, property managers and their tenants. If owners and managers are making good faith efforts to comply with the Ordinance, Austin Resource Recovery staff will work to cooperatively solve unique implementation challenges. After the initial one-year period, affected property owners that do not meet the minimum standards of a compliant recycling program may be subject to fines and enforcement by Austin Code.

Austin Resource Recovery and the Business Outreach Team are committed to outreach, education, and helping properties and businesses implement cost-effective recycling and waste diversion programs. Fines may be assessed in cases where education and assistance have been offered and the property owner or designee continues to fail to meet the requirements of the Ordinance. 

  • Violations of this Ordinance are punishable by a fine of between $200 and $2,000 per deficiency, per day.
  • See Section 8.0 of the Austin Resource Recovery Administrative Rules  for more guidance about the requirements of the Ordinance. 

Reducing the size of trash containers, or frequency of trash pick-up, may offset some or all of the costs of adding recycling services. Contact your current service provider to discuss trash, recycling and composting service options. Find a list of licensed service providers here.

Yes! Contact the Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com to schedule a free presentation by one of our team members to your professional organization, green team, executive team, or other group.

Contact the Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com to schedule a free onsite assessment.  Learn more about the Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Services at Austintexas.gov/CommercialRecycling

Ask your property manager, or your current trash service provider, about providing recycling services. In addition, you can search Earth911.com for local recycling providers or facilities.

A list of licensed trash, recycling, and compost haulers can be found here.

If you think that your employer or apartment complex is affected by the URO, but not compliant, please contact the Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com and we will look in to the matter for you.

Office equipment companies, janitorial supply retailers, and home improvement stores offer a variety of recycling containers. Consider standardizing container colors to keep it simple:

  • Black = landfill trash
  • Blue = recycling
  • Green = organics/compost

Austin Resource Recovery can provide businesses with waste assessments, resources, and education.  Site Assessment Visits are complementary and include a starter kit and sample bin types to help jumpstart or expand your recycling program. Contact Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com to schedule a visit.

What Do I Do With... is an A to Z recycling, reusing, and composting guide for City of Austin residential curbside customers. Other Austin residents and businesses can consult Earth911.com for additional resources and information on local recycling and reuse facilities. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com