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Frequently Asked Questions

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The City of Austin is working to close the recycling loop by bringing manufacturers who are interested in making and selling products made from locally recycled materials.

After collection, recyclables go to two local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to be sorted and prepared for market. Many of these will become the same product in what is known as closed-loop recycling. For example, glass, aluminum, and steel can be used to make new bottles or cans. Many fibers, such as those from cardboard, are used to make new boxes. And most common household items contain some recycled materials. For example, recycled plastics are turned into new bottles, but they can also be made into carpeting, park benches, and fibers for clothing. The Keep America Beautiful website provides more detail about the recycling process.

Austin is coming up on a big milestone on the road to Zero Waste. By the end of 2015, our goal is to keep 50 percent of materials out of the landfill. This campaign will revitalize Austin’s enthusiasm about recycling and encourage residents to recycle more. With this campaign, Austin Resource Recovery is taking public education and outreach one step further. By raising awareness and increasing public education, this partnership will help Austin reach the goal.

  • Set out your blue recycling cart every two weeks, even if it’s not full.
  • Never let recyclables go into the trash. Give your trash another life!
  • Become an advocate – encourage your friends, co-workers and neighbors to join the challenge and help our great city live up to its green reputation.
  • Recycle in every room of your house.
  • Look for other ways to recycle more on our 5 Steps to 5 Pounds page.

The I Want To Be Recycled campaign is an educational campaign launched by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council to motivate people to recycle every day. The campaign shows everyday products in a new light making us aware of the potential they have to become something new. The I Want To Be Recycled campaign was developed based on thorough research of recycling habits and the benefits of providing educational recycling tools and resources. The campaign will help the City of Austin inspire and encourage our residents to recycle more. The campaign targets sporadic recyclers with the goal to make recycling a daily social norm.

Home Composting Rebate Program

Unfortunately, we are not able to provide rebates on home-built composters during this pilot rebate program. At this time, we do not have an efficient way of determining how those materials are being used. We hope to be able to include them in future rebate programs. This has been our answer to class attendees and we need to remain consistent on this issue.

Yes, as long as it was purchased after April 22, 2010 and you have a copy of the receipt.

To be eligible, you must be an Austin Resource Recovery customer that receives residential collection services including trash, recycling and yard trimmings collection.

To sign up for a composting class, review the schedule of upcoming classes on the Home Composting Challenge webpage and click on the "Register Online" link.

A check will be mailed to the address specified on your rebate application. Please allow 6-8 weeks for rebate processing.

If you already use a 32-gallon trash cart you are eligible for the rebate as long as you take a City-sponsored composting class.

Purchase any type of home composting system that will satisfy the needs of your household. Please consider buying locally and/or recycled content.

The City offers basic home composting classes around town free of charge. See the schedule of classes on the Home Composting Challenge webpage to sign up to attend a class. An online class is also available.

You can mail your application and necessary information to:
ATTN: Composting Rebate Program
City of Austin-Austin Resource Recovery
P.O. Box 1088
Austin, TX 78767

You can also email your application and receipt.

Residential Recycling Collection

We cannot accept:

  • PVC pipe
  • CD/DVD cases (take them to the Resource Recovery Center or Recycled Reads)
  • A reminder that all metal components must be removed from hard plastics.

Rinse recyclables to remove food residue

Dry paper before putting it in your cart

Crush recyclables like cans, plastic jugs and bottles

Flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard

Note: Do not place recyclables in a plastic bag. Plastic bags are not accepted in our curbside recycling program and contribute to contamination.

Austin Resource Recovery curbside customers may continue to set out large rigid plastics during twice-per-year bulk item collection. These items are currently taken to the landfill, but Austin Resource Recovery is exploring ways to recover and recycle these items in the future.

One way to use less water is to rinse your recyclables in the water used to clean dishes. Some people even put a pitcher in their bathtub to catch the water from their shower as it heats up.

  • Place multiple labeled recycling containers around your home. When the containers are full, empty them into your blue recycling cart.
  • Recycle in every room. Place recycling containers in areas like your bathroom, so you can collect items like toilet and paper towel rolls and shampoo bottles.
  • Get the whole family involved by making recycling a habit. Talk to your  family, friends and roommates about what items can be recycled, what items can’t and how each item should be disposed of in your home. 

Recycling keeps reusable items out of the landfills, which in turn offers many benefits:

  • Recycling can save you money – Austin Resource Recovery provides bundled services to manage your trash, recycling and yard trimmings. Costs are based on your trash cart size. Recycling as much as possible may allow you to downsize to a smaller trash cart, which will save you money on your monthly utility bill.

 

  • Recycling saves natural resources – By recycling, we save natural resources from being used to create new products. In addition, creating products from recycled content releases fewer greenhouse gases than mining or harvesting new materials.
  • Recycling saves energy – Recycling saves energy that would otherwise be used to extract, process and transport virgin materials.

 

  • Recycling reduces landfill dependence– Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 to 75 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills reduces the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
     

For alternative options for recycling or disposing of unaccepted items, visit our A to Z guide to recycling, reusing, composting and more!

If you would like additional assistance, please email us your specific recycling question or contact us via facebook.com/austinrecycles.com.
 

Below is a brief description of the symbols. For more detailed information, visit the resin identification codes page of the American Chemistry Council Web site.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) or (PET): soft drink and water bottles, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, peanut butter and salad dressing containers. It can be recycled into polar fleece clothing, fiber, tote bags, bottles, clothing, furniture, and carpet.
  2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): milk jugs, water and juice containers, liquid detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs. It can be recycled into liquid laundry detergent containers, drainage pipe, oil bottles, recycling bins, benches, pens, doghouses, vitamin bottles, floor tile, picnic tables, lumber, mailbox posts, fencing.
  3. Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC): clear food packaging, shampoo bottles.
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): squeezable bottles (e.g. honey, mustard).
  5. Polypropylene (PP): ketchup bottles, yogurt containers and margarine tubs, medicine bottles.
  6. Polystyrene (PS): aspirin bottles, cups, plates.
  7. Other: Use of this code indicates that the package in question is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin used in combination. Plastics such as three and five gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and ketchup bottles, clear baby food containers.

After recyclables are collected, they are transported to two local Materials Recovery Facilities and then are sorted and baled before being sold to manufacturers to create new products.

When incorrect items are recycled it is called contamination. Putting the wrong items in your blue cart can disrupt the recycling process and cause safety hazards.

For example, plastic bags, garden hoses and wire hangers get tangled in machinery and halt production. Broken glass is a safety hazard for collection crews and MRF employees. Plastic foam breaks up during processing and ends up as small pieces contaminating paper, aluminum, and other recyclables.

After collection, Austin Resource Recovery staff takes recyclables to two local Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) for processing. The staff at each MRF does their best to sort everything correctly, however  contaminated materials still sometimes find their way through the system, often at the expense of the MRF operator and the City.

Click here for a list of alternative options for non-accepted items.

If you cannot fit all of your recyclables in your cart, you may place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container. If you have excess cardboard, please cut or fold the cardboard into 2 feet by 2 feet piles, and tie them into manageable bundles with string or twine. Place the bundles next to your recycling cart. Extra recyclables will be picked up at no extra change.

To make more room in your cart, crush recyclables like cans, plastic jugs and bottles. Be sure to "break down" or flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard so that it fits more easily into the cart.

  • Plastic bags
  • Garden hoses
  • Styrofoam (cups, egg cartons, take-out containers)
  • Pizza boxes from take-out or delivery services
  • Yard waste/leaves (set out for yard trimmings pick up)
  • Food waste
  • Trash (you may be charged for extra trash if you put trash in your recycling cart)
  • Helium tanks
  • Large metal items such as frying pans and metal pipes
  • Large plastic items (plastics that are gallon-sized or smaller are ok)
  • Wire coat hangers (recycle at your local dry cleaners)

Why we can't take these items

The recycling processing facility uses an automated system to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items will jam the automated machinery.

Austin Resource Recovery collects trash from almost 30,000 homes each day. Occasionally, crews miss a house. Sometimes the crews are not able to collect the material safely or a road hazard or blockage may prevent access. If there is a problem with the material that prevents collection, a notice will be left behind to let you know the problem.

If you haven’t received a notice and you placed the material at the curb by 6:30 a.m. on your collection day:

  • Leave the missed items at the curb and call Austin Resource Recovery at 3-1-1.
  • You may contact us by e-mail. Please include your address, a contact number and the items that were missed. We will come by to pick up the missed material as soon as possible.

Recyclables are processed at two large recycling processing facilities that use automated systems to sort and bale the recyclables. Items like these can get stuck and jam the automated machinery. You can however take them to your local grocery store for recycling.

Vendors and manufacturers that buy so-called “mixed rigid plastics” prefer to receive plastics without metal components. Plastics that contain metal are considered contaminants and a lower value.

Dirty recyclables can contaminate other recyclables. Dirty items do not have as much value as clean recyclables and sometimes cannot be sold to manufacturers to become new products. These items can end up going to the landfill. This leads to higher expenses for the operators of the recycling facilities, as well as the City. Also, recyclables that have food residue on them can cause odors and attract pests in your recycling cart.

Most of our trucks are equipped with automatic arms that pick up the carts. Our crews can collect materials more safely and efficiently if all the recyclables fit into the cart, preventing drivers from getting out of the truck. If you have items that don’t fit in the cart, either break them down, or set them out during bulk item collection.

Single Stream Recycling allows Austin Resource Recovery customers to mix recyclable paper, plastic, aluminum cans and glass in one bin. This method of curbside recycling is more convenient for residents because it does not requires sorting of items. Other advantages include:

  • Reduced collection costs because collection can be automated, and collection routes can be serviced more efficiently
  • Worker injuries may decrease because single stream means switching from bins to cart-based collection using trucks with automated lifts
  • More paper grades can be collected, including food packaging (boxboard), junk mail, and mixed residential paper

Residential Services

No. We process recyclables at two local recycling processing facilities that use automated systems to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items, like plastic bags, jam the automated machinery. Take plastic shopping bags to your local grocery stores for recycling.

Recycling - Every other week
Trash - Weekly
Yard trimmings - Weekly
Brush - Twice per year
Bulk - Twice per year

Rinse recyclables to remove food residue

Dry paper before placing it in your cart

Crush recyclables like cans, plastic jugs and bottles

Flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard

Yes! We offer four trash cart sizes; 96-gallon, 64-gallon, 32-gallon and 24-gallon.

Call Austin Resource Recovery at 3-1-1. We will come by to pick up the missed material as soon as possible.

Visit our itemized, online A to Z guide to recycling, reusing, composting and more.

Extra bags of trash that do not fit in your trash cart with the lid closed must be placed next to the trash cart and tagged with an Extra Trash Sticker, which can be purchased at most local grocery stores for $4+ tax. Extra bags without a sticker will be charge a per-bag fee of $8+ tax.

Resource Recovery Center

Yes. The fee associated with tire collection is as follows: $6 per tire that is 20” and under; $7 per that is 21” and over.

No. All electronics are accepted free of cost.

Yes. However, our facilities are only able to accept a certain quantity. Please contact us before dropping off your items. If your items exceed our capabilities our staff will direct you to another certified to company to recycle your electronics. 

Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 

Electronics are complex devices, which are made of a wide variety of material constituents. Some of the constituents, such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, could pose risks to human health or the environment if mismanaged at their end-of-life. 

Mattresses and toilets are not accepted. Mulch and wood chips are available free of charge for self-loading and takeaway.

Cellphones and computers do not need to be wiped of data before drop-off; they will be stored securely and destroyed. 

You can leave batteries inside your electronics. RRC will properly dispose of them for you. 

  • Televisions, including cathode ray tubes
  • Computers, including cathode ray tube monitors
  • Computer equipment, including keyboards and mice
  • Mobile devices, including cell phones, smartphones, PDAs and pagers
  • Printers, scanners and copiers
  • Fax machines
  • Video game consoles
  • Cameras
  • … Anything that plugs in! 

If you have questions or concerns about whether or not an item is accepted, call us at: (512) 974-4373

Electronics for recycling can be taken to The Resource Recovery Center (RRC) located at 3810 Todd Ln., Austin, TX 78730. Questions? Call 512-974-4373.

Electronics are made from valuable resources, such as precious metals, copper, and engineered plastics, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling electronics recovers valuable materials and as a result, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, save energy, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.

Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO)

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 will be required to provide recycling services to their tenants and employees. Properties with food service permits will be required to provide food scrap diversion programs, starting with businesses larger than 5,000 square feet on Oct. 1, 2016. All businesses with food service permits will be required to divert food scraps by Oct. 1, 2017.

The URO will roll out over a five-year period, gradually affecting smaller properties. Multifamily properties with more than 50 dwelling units and commercial office properties more than 75,000 square feet are currently affected by the URO. By Oct. 2017, effectively all properties will need to provide convenient recycling to their tenants and employees.

Properties with food service permits will be required to provide food scrap diversion programs starting Oct. 1 2016.

Facilities are subject to the URO beginning: Multifamily properties with more than: Commercial office buildings larger than: Other commercial properties larger than: Food scrap requirements for food service properties larger than:
10/1/2012 75 dwelling units 100,000 SF    
10/1/2013 50 dwelling units 75,000 SF    
10/1/2014 25 dwelling units 50,000 SF 50,000 SF  
10/1/2015 10 dwelling units 25,000 SF 25,000 SF  
10/1/2016 All properties 5,000 SF 5,000 SF 5,000 SF
10/1/2017   All properties All properties All properties

 

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, 2013, the URO affects commercial properties 75,000 square feet and larger as well as multifamily properties with 50 dwelling units or more. The URO affects gradually smaller properties over time.  Five requirements are necessary to comply with the URO:

  1. Recycling Services available for five materials at a minimum (Plastics #1 & #2, Paper, Cardboard, Glass, Aluminum)
  2. Sufficient collection-container capacity
  3. Informational signage in English and Spanish
  4. Regular tenant and employee education
  5. Annual Recycling Plan Forms and record keeping

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 food scraps whihc rank higher on the food recovery hierarchy and should be prioritized (see image below).

Food recovery hierarchy

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

Food scrap diversion programs are a topic of discussion underway in the Universal Recycling Ordinance Phase 2 Administrative Rules Development. Stakeholders are invited to engage in the dialogue by attending regularly scheduled meetings. To receive email notices about upcoming stakeholder meetings, please sign up on the project website.

At this time, the Ordinance intends for employees and tenants to have access to recycling (of materials and food scraps) and does not target customers.

If you have a question about the stakeholder meetings or need more information, please contact CommercialRecycling@austintexas.gov.    

The goal of the URO is to ensure tenants and employees have access to well-marked and convenient recycling so that they can effectively participate and recycle correctly. The Administrative Rules set standards that include the following:

Multifamily properties capacity:

Recycling capacity must exceed 6.4 gallons per dwelling, per week.

One (1) cubic yard equals 202 gallons, so property owners should provide the following:

  • One cubic yard per 32 dwelling units per week
  • One 96-gallon cart per every fifteen (15) dwelling units per week

Commercial office building capacity:

Recycling capacity must be equal to, or greater than, 25 percent of the total weekly service capacity for all materials.

Convenience:

All exterior recycling containers must be located within 25 feet of exterior trash containers (including Dumpsters, carts, or other containers) to ensure convenience for tenants or employees. The Recycling Plan allows properties to request a waiver for container placement.

If you have questions about capacity, container placement, waivers or need more information, 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 Recycling Annual Plan Form at austintexas.gov/recyclingplan. If you need help completing the form, please contact Austin Resource Recovery staff at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com.

Remember Recycling 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 Recycling Plan Form 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 Compliance.

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