How frequently will organic materials be collected?
Composting will be collected weekly, on the same day as your trash collection.
Nearly half of the materials that end up in landfills can be composted. Collecting food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings at the curb will help keep valuable materials out of our landfills, reduce harmful greenhouse gases and help Austin get closer to Zero Waste by 2040.
What is composting?
Composting is a natural process that breaks down organic materials, like food scraps and yard trimmings, into an earthy, nutrient-rich, soil-like material.
Why should I compost?
When buried in a landfill, organic materials do not break down as they would in nature or in a compost pile. They decompose anaerobically, without oxygen, and in the process become the number one source of human-caused methane released into the atmosphere. By participating in this pilot, your organic materials will not go to a landfill and instead will be composted into a natural resource. Compost adds beneficial nutrients to the soil, helps retain water, and fertilizes lawns and gardens without using chemicals.
In addition to contributing to Austin’s Zero Waste goal, Curbside Composting may help residents save money on their utility bills. After putting food scraps and food-soiled paper in their green carts, customers will have less trash to throw away each week. This may allow them to downsize to a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Austin Resource Recovery offers four trash cart sizes – the smaller the cart, the less it costs each month. Learn more about pricing and size options.
How much am I paying for this service?
Austin City Council approved a $1 monthly fee increase for the first year of the service expansion. ARR estimates that monthly fees will need to increase about $4.00 by 2020 to fund the citywide program expansion. Future fee increases will be subject to City Council approval during the budget process. Customers can offset fee increases by choosing a smaller trash cart size. The majority of ARR customers have a 64-gallon trash cart and could save $76 per year if they downsize to a 24-gallon cart or could save $61 per year if they downsize to a 32-gallon cart *Please note: Your trash, recycling and curbside compost service fee is determined solely by the size of your landfill trash cart. Pilot compost customers choosing to reduce their curbside compost cart from a 96 gallon to 32 gallon will pay the fee as determined by their landfill trash cart size only. Learn more about pricing and size options.
What will happen to the organic materials in my cart after the materials are collected?
After we collect your organic materials at the curb, they are transported to a local composting facility. Materials are placed in a large pile where microorganisms begin to break down the materials and heat up the pile to very high temperatures. After 12 months or longer, materials break down and transform into an earthy, soil-like material called compost. Compost is used to fertilize plants, gardens and other outdoor areas.
How is this service different from weekly yard trimmings collection?
The Curbside Composting Collection Program is an expansion of the department's current weekly curbside yard trimmings collection. Since 1989, Austin Resource Recovery has partnered with Austin Water Utility to compost yard trimmings collected at the curb into Dillo DirtTM. Curbside organics collection is the City's next step toward collecting additional organic materials at the curb. This service allows residents to place large quantities of yard trimmings, as well as food scraps and other food-soiled paper, directly into a 32-gallon green organics cart. The organic materials collected in the green cart are composted at a local composting facility using a different process. Please place yard trimmings, including leaves, grass clippings and small branches directly in the green organics cart.
What should I do if I can’t fit all of my yard trimmings in my organics cart?
First, be sure to put as many yard trimmings as possible inside your organics cart. The lid must be able to close. Consider saving excess leaves and grass clippings to layer with food scraps in the future. If you have additional yard trimmings, you may put them in lawn-and-leaf paper bags or in reusable containers no larger than 34 gallons. You may also tie small branches into manageable bundles with string or twine and place them at the curb. Extra yard trimmings will be collected at no extra charge.
Should I recycle or compost my paper products?
Paper is a very valuable resource as it is both recyclable and compostable. Clean paper products, such as unwanted mail, glossy and matte office paper and cardboard can be recycled into new paper products. Please place clean paper items into the blue recycling cart, so they can be recycled into new paper products.
Food-soiled paper, however, cannot be recycled into new products. Once paper has been soiled, it loses much of its resale and reuse value. Luckily, paper is also compostable. Please place food-soiled paper, such as paper plates, cups, napkins, tissues and paper towels into your green organics cart. These food-soiled paper products will be turned into nutrient-rich compost.
For example, you could place the bottom half of a greasy, food-soiled pizza box in the green organics cart and place the clean, residue-free top half in the blue recycling cart. Or, you could place the entire pizza box in the green organics cart. However, you should not place the entire pizza box in the blue recycling cart, as it has some food-residue remaining on it.
How can I keep my organics cart clean?
You can use BPI-certified compostable bags in your kitchen collector, layer your food scraps and yard trimmings within your cart to absorb moisture; occasionally wash out your cart with mild soap and water; and sprinkle baking soda in the cart to help control odors.
How can I control odors in my cart?
You can use BPI-certified compostable bags to collect food scraps, wash the cart with mild soap and water, and sprinkle with baking soda to help reduce odors, if needed. To minimize odors in the future, layer food scraps with yard trimmings or food-soiled paper, such as pizza boxes. Wrapping food in paper products, such as paper bags, can help prevent sticking. We also encourage you to set out your cart every week to ensure it is emptied regularly.
Why aren’t plastic bags accepted?
Plastic bags are not biodegradable and cannot be composted, you can use BPI-certified compostable bags in your kitchen collector.
My cart isn’t full. Should I still set it out at the curb?
Yes. No matter how full your cart is, the City encourages you to set out your cart every week to help keep your cart clean. The 32-gallon organics cart helps accommodate large quantities of yard trimmings during high debris seasons and also can deter animals from getting into and/or knocking over the cart. But if you aren’t able to fill the cart every week, don’t worry. Crews will still collect your cart, regardless of the amount of organic materials inside.
What are some suggestions for collecting and storing food scraps?
Collecting food scraps in a reusable container in the kitchen is an easy way to save leftovers for your green cart. Coffee cans, plastic food storage containers or compost collectors can be used. If you choose to collect food scraps using paper products, you can place them directly in your cart! For example:
Use BPI-certified compostable bags in your kitchen collector.
Bag food scraps in a plain paper bag to prevent scraps from sticking to the kitchen collector.
Collect food scraps in a cereal box or tissue box. Be sure to remove any plastic lining.
Wrap food scraps in a paper towel or old newspaper.
Wash your kitchen collector in the dishwasher or by hand after emptying.
To reduce odors in your kitchen, try freezing food scraps like meat, poultry and fish in a reusable container until it’s time to take scraps to your cart.
I don’t have enough room to set my carts 5 feet apart. What should I do?
As a general rule, we ask that you set your carts 5 feet apart so our automated trucks can safely collect your materials. If you do not have enough space to set all three of your carts 5 feet apart, we ask that you set them out with as much space between carts as possible. Thank you for helping keep our drivers safe on the job.
I already compost at home. Should I still use my green cart?
We congratulate you for composting at home and encourage you to continue to do so. However, there are many items that we accept in the green organics cart that are not suitable for a residential compost pile. For example, meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products and bones should not be composted at home. We encourage you to add these items to your green cart each week!
I have leftover cooking grease and oil. Can I put them in my green cart?
No. Fats, oils and greases are not acceptable materials for composting. However, greasy foods and food-soiled papers can be placed in your cart. You can recycle cooking fats, oil and greases at the Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center.