Oct 20, 2020 - 02:58 pm CDT

"Items stacked up for donation"

By: Max McCready

National Reuse Day is on October 20, and we’re excited to celebrate the benefits of extending the life of  items in our homes and closets. There are many ways to participate, like donating gently-used items or supporting your local thrift store. We were curious how to make it easier for stores and employees to process donations. 

We asked thrift stores to give us their best tips on how to donate ‘like a pro.’  Here’s what they said: 

1. Organize your donations by category.  

Take a few moments before leaving your house to group your donations into categories. This helps staff and volunteers quickly sort through your donation. 

2. Package and secure loose items.  

When donating loose odds and ends, it's helpful if items are contained in something they won't spill out of. For example, if you have small items that are part of a set, like silverware, consider placing them in a container or tying them together with a string. 

3. When in doubt, ask. 

Donating something that’s out of the ordinary? If you’re unsure whether your item is accepted, call to the store to confirm they can process your item 

4. Drop off your items when the store is open.   

When donations are left overnight, they often get rummaged through, leaving a mess that employees have to clean up the next morning. Ensure the thrift store benefits fully from your donation by dropping it off during the store’s regular hours. 

5) Donate seasonal items.   

Ski jackets aren’t anyone’s go-to during an Austin summer. Reduce thrift stores’ need to hold onto items for months by donating items appropriate for that time of year. 

The tips require minimal additional effort, but can save thrift stores and their employees a lot of time and energy. So the next time you donate items to your favorite store, donate like a pro! 

Find your local thrift store and check their safety protocols and store hours before stopping to donate gently-used items! To learn even more about the behind-the-scenes world of the thrift industry, check out Thrift Store Planet with journalist Adam Minter, hosted by the City of Austin and Imagine Austin Speaker Series. 

Oct 01, 2020 - 02:46 pm CDT

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

How much of what we place in our curbside recycling carts is actually recycled? With the daily impact COVID-19 has had on our lives (increases in single-use plastics, gloves and face coverings), this question may be on your minds as you roll your blue recycling carts to the curb. On behalf of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), I would like to reassure you that all zero-waste programs and initiatives, including recycling, continue to be a priority in Austin.

"Recycling truck collects contents from curbside carts"  "Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center entrance sign"

Since the onset of the pandemic in Central Texas in March, we have worked diligently to explore creative solutions to continue diverting Austin’s unwanted items from local landfills to realize our mission of becoming zero-waste by 2040. Even amid a pandemic, our diversion rate has increased by nearly four percent over last year’s totals by continuing to provide our essential services as residential output rose.

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center (RRDOC) has reopened, by appointment only, for proper disposal of hard-to-recycle items and household hazardous waste. We had to close the center temporarily while we, like the rest of the country, learned to navigate through the ever-changing pandemic response. In addition to protecting the health of RRDOC staff and visitors, the closure allowed reassigned staff to assist with implementing added operational safety measures, such as and daily temperature scans. These new processes ensure collections operator safety and the continued weekly collection of trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings service.

Similarly, we suspended large brush and bulk collections to divert additional employees to support essential weekly collections due to large increases in household trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings as many Austinites worked from home. Large brush and bulk collections will resume on October 12 and 26, respectively. Both operational shifts allowed ARR to continue servicing residential routes without a lapse or suspension of residential services. You can view your collection schedule, including your next bulk and large brush collection week, or download the Austin Recycles App.

At ARR, we do not only provide Austinites with proper disposal of their unwanted items; our staff has been hard at work helping residents continue zero-waste practices during COVID-19. Encouraging reuse, repair and donation through online workshops, marketing and advertising campaigns and social media engagement to keep even more out of our local landfills and giving those items a second, or third, life.  

Additionally, ARR proudly joined the U.S. Plastics Pact on August 25 of this year, as another example of our commitment to recycling and reducing plastic waste on a national level. By joining the pact, we can re-imagine the way plastics are designed, used and reused to eliminate unwanted byproducts from the process.

As challenges like COVID-19 arise, ARR’s flexibility allows us to adapt and continue to provide our award-winning services to you. We are immensely grateful for your commitment to living a waste-free lifestyle and for joining us on Austin’s zero waste journey.

Tagged:
Oct 01, 2020 - 02:02 pm CDT

 

"Snake, Rattle & Roll at Fortlandia"

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin's Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) accepts hard-to-recycle items like Styrofoam, plastic bags, old electronics and household hazardous waste for special recycling in order to keep the items out of the landfill. But did you know the center also accepts tires for a small fee? Most tires are shredded and used in playgrounds or on recreational surfaces for public use. Recently, some tires were put to reuse in a creative way.

Through a recent (and fort-unate) partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the RRDOC donated more than 100 tires for an upcoming project as part of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's annual Fortlandia exhibit. With these tires, Texas Parks and Wildlife was able to create the Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort. It is a giant rattlesnake constructed with more than 100 tires, which visitors can see on display at Fortlandia through January.

The Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort is a great example of how everyday items and materials (like our car tires) can be reused and given a second life. Thanks to Austin and Travis County residents, more than 100 tires were kept out of the landfill and are now benefiting our community. Tire-rrific job, Austin!

"Rendering of Snake, Rattle & Roll exhibit at Fortlandia"

Sep 30, 2020 - 10:53 am CDT

"children play in a pirate ship made out of cardboard boxes"

By: Alyssa Armstrong

Leaves are beginning to fall, there is a coolness in the air and pumpkin spice is back with a vengeance. This can only mean one thing; Halloween is just around the corner! While All Hallows Eve may look a little different this year, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday at home, while minimizing the impact on our environment. From pumpkin carving and decorating to inventive and resourceful costume making, we’ve got some scary good tips to make your spooky celebrations zero waste.

Pumpkin Carving

Nothing is more synonymous with Halloween than the jack-o’-lantern. Whether you choose to carve the classic toothy smile or something more intricate, we’ve all wondered what to do with everything that gets discarded in the gutting and carving process. Before you toss the pumpkin seeds, strings and meat into your compost bin, think of everything you can make: 

  • Pumpkin seeds make a great snack when seasoned and baked.
  • Strings can be boiled with other vegetable skins to create a tasty homemade vegetable stock or broth.
  • The meat of the pumpkin you save from your jack-o’-lantern can be made into a pumpkin puree, perfect for a delicious pumpkin pie, or other tasty pumpkin treats.
  • Remember that once Halloween is over and your carved pumpkins look a little worse for wear, they can be composted in your green cart.

Halloween Décor

Did you know you already have everything you need to make your Halloween décor the envy of the block? In recent months, many of us have been getting our essentials shipped right to our door. Give your discarded cardboard boxes new life by turning them into creepy tombstones for your yard, maybe even one that reads, “R.I.P. 2020.” You may also choose to make a few festive friends out of cardboard, perfect for cutting out ghosts, bats and cats to place around your home as a special touch. So, next time you receive a package, use the box for creepy crafts to take your ghoulish décor to the next level.

Costumes

Finally, we’ll tackle the biggest question of the fall season, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” There are several ways to have a great costume and minimize waste. Consider reusing past Halloween costumes or finding creative ways to mash them up for a new one-of-a-kind costume. For the adventurous DIYers, consider using leftover boxes from your creepy crafting time to make a unique robot costume, a four-wheeled fire engine or tractor. You may also enjoy doing a socially distanced costume swap with friends and family. Trade boxes filled with years of stowed away costumes with a neighbor or a classmate and discover a new-to-you ensemble to rock this Halloween.

Remember, if you are ever unsure of the best zero waste options for getting rid of unwanted household items like old costumes, cardboard boxes or even a rotten pumpkin, our ‘What Do I Do With?’ tool can help. You can also use it by downloading the Austin Recycles app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Happy haunting from Austin Resource Recovery!

Sep 24, 2020 - 10:43 am CDT

By: Natalie Betts

"A man rents a bicycle"

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

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

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

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

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

Sep 02, 2020 - 01:43 am CDT

 

By: Ashley Pace

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

Avoid excess trash by:

Avoid fees by:

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

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

Zero Waste by 2040

By: Bailey Grimmett 

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

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

Exercise #1: A waste reduction warm-up

Man rents a bicycle

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

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

Exercise #2: Repair your things, repeat

Woman uses a sewing machine to stitch a shirt

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

Exercise #3: Food waste workout

Woman puts food scraps in Bokashi in-home composting system

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

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

Person used lawn mower to cut grass

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

Exercise #5: Stretch your ‘stuff’

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

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

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

Post zero-waste workout tip

Cat buried in pile of bubble wrap

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

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

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


 

Aug 13, 2020 - 02:59 pm CDT

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

By: Natalie Betts

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

Step 1 

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

Step 6

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


 

May 18, 2020 - 01:06 pm CDT

Tammie Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

May 15, 2020 - 02:37 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

Terra Helmets

Terra Helmet engineering design graphic

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

LoFi Recycling Systems

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

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

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


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

Oct 01, 2020 - 02:46 pm CDT

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

How much of what we place in our curbside recycling carts is actually recycled? With the daily impact COVID-19 has had on our lives (increases in single-use plastics, gloves and face coverings), this question may be on your minds as you roll your blue recycling carts to the curb. On behalf of Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), I would like to reassure you that all zero-waste programs and initiatives, including recycling, continue to be a priority in Austin.

"Recycling truck collects contents from curbside carts"  "Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center entrance sign"

Since the onset of the pandemic in Central Texas in March, we have worked diligently to explore creative solutions to continue diverting Austin’s unwanted items from local landfills to realize our mission of becoming zero-waste by 2040. Even amid a pandemic, our diversion rate has increased by nearly four percent over last year’s totals by continuing to provide our essential services as residential output rose.

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center (RRDOC) has reopened, by appointment only, for proper disposal of hard-to-recycle items and household hazardous waste. We had to close the center temporarily while we, like the rest of the country, learned to navigate through the ever-changing pandemic response. In addition to protecting the health of RRDOC staff and visitors, the closure allowed reassigned staff to assist with implementing added operational safety measures, such as and daily temperature scans. These new processes ensure collections operator safety and the continued weekly collection of trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings service.

Similarly, we suspended large brush and bulk collections to divert additional employees to support essential weekly collections due to large increases in household trash, recycling, composting and yard trimmings as many Austinites worked from home. Large brush and bulk collections will resume on October 12 and 26, respectively. Both operational shifts allowed ARR to continue servicing residential routes without a lapse or suspension of residential services. You can view your collection schedule, including your next bulk and large brush collection week, or download the Austin Recycles App.

At ARR, we do not only provide Austinites with proper disposal of their unwanted items; our staff has been hard at work helping residents continue zero-waste practices during COVID-19. Encouraging reuse, repair and donation through online workshops, marketing and advertising campaigns and social media engagement to keep even more out of our local landfills and giving those items a second, or third, life.  

Additionally, ARR proudly joined the U.S. Plastics Pact on August 25 of this year, as another example of our commitment to recycling and reducing plastic waste on a national level. By joining the pact, we can re-imagine the way plastics are designed, used and reused to eliminate unwanted byproducts from the process.

As challenges like COVID-19 arise, ARR’s flexibility allows us to adapt and continue to provide our award-winning services to you. We are immensely grateful for your commitment to living a waste-free lifestyle and for joining us on Austin’s zero waste journey.

Tagged:
Road to Zero Waste
Oct 01, 2020 - 02:02 pm CDT

 

"Snake, Rattle & Roll at Fortlandia"

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin's Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) accepts hard-to-recycle items like Styrofoam, plastic bags, old electronics and household hazardous waste for special recycling in order to keep the items out of the landfill. But did you know the center also accepts tires for a small fee? Most tires are shredded and used in playgrounds or on recreational surfaces for public use. Recently, some tires were put to reuse in a creative way.

Through a recent (and fort-unate) partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the RRDOC donated more than 100 tires for an upcoming project as part of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's annual Fortlandia exhibit. With these tires, Texas Parks and Wildlife was able to create the Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort. It is a giant rattlesnake constructed with more than 100 tires, which visitors can see on display at Fortlandia through January.

The Snake, Rattle & Roll! fort is a great example of how everyday items and materials (like our car tires) can be reused and given a second life. Thanks to Austin and Travis County residents, more than 100 tires were kept out of the landfill and are now benefiting our community. Tire-rrific job, Austin!

"Rendering of Snake, Rattle & Roll exhibit at Fortlandia"

Road to Zero Waste
Sep 30, 2020 - 10:53 am CDT

"children play in a pirate ship made out of cardboard boxes"

By: Alyssa Armstrong

Leaves are beginning to fall, there is a coolness in the air and pumpkin spice is back with a vengeance. This can only mean one thing; Halloween is just around the corner! While All Hallows Eve may look a little different this year, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday at home, while minimizing the impact on our environment. From pumpkin carving and decorating to inventive and resourceful costume making, we’ve got some scary good tips to make your spooky celebrations zero waste.

Pumpkin Carving

Nothing is more synonymous with Halloween than the jack-o’-lantern. Whether you choose to carve the classic toothy smile or something more intricate, we’ve all wondered what to do with everything that gets discarded in the gutting and carving process. Before you toss the pumpkin seeds, strings and meat into your compost bin, think of everything you can make: 

  • Pumpkin seeds make a great snack when seasoned and baked.
  • Strings can be boiled with other vegetable skins to create a tasty homemade vegetable stock or broth.
  • The meat of the pumpkin you save from your jack-o’-lantern can be made into a pumpkin puree, perfect for a delicious pumpkin pie, or other tasty pumpkin treats.
  • Remember that once Halloween is over and your carved pumpkins look a little worse for wear, they can be composted in your green cart.

Halloween Décor

Did you know you already have everything you need to make your Halloween décor the envy of the block? In recent months, many of us have been getting our essentials shipped right to our door. Give your discarded cardboard boxes new life by turning them into creepy tombstones for your yard, maybe even one that reads, “R.I.P. 2020.” You may also choose to make a few festive friends out of cardboard, perfect for cutting out ghosts, bats and cats to place around your home as a special touch. So, next time you receive a package, use the box for creepy crafts to take your ghoulish décor to the next level.

Costumes

Finally, we’ll tackle the biggest question of the fall season, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” There are several ways to have a great costume and minimize waste. Consider reusing past Halloween costumes or finding creative ways to mash them up for a new one-of-a-kind costume. For the adventurous DIYers, consider using leftover boxes from your creepy crafting time to make a unique robot costume, a four-wheeled fire engine or tractor. You may also enjoy doing a socially distanced costume swap with friends and family. Trade boxes filled with years of stowed away costumes with a neighbor or a classmate and discover a new-to-you ensemble to rock this Halloween.

Remember, if you are ever unsure of the best zero waste options for getting rid of unwanted household items like old costumes, cardboard boxes or even a rotten pumpkin, our ‘What Do I Do With?’ tool can help. You can also use it by downloading the Austin Recycles app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Happy haunting from Austin Resource Recovery!

Road to Zero Waste
Sep 24, 2020 - 10:43 am CDT

By: Natalie Betts

"A man rents a bicycle"

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

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

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

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

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

Road to Zero Waste
Sep 02, 2020 - 01:43 am CDT

 

By: Ashley Pace

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

Avoid excess trash by:

Avoid fees by:

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

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

Zero Waste by 2040

By: Bailey Grimmett 

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

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

Exercise #1: A waste reduction warm-up

Man rents a bicycle

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

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

Exercise #2: Repair your things, repeat

Woman uses a sewing machine to stitch a shirt

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

Exercise #3: Food waste workout

Woman puts food scraps in Bokashi in-home composting system

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

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

Person used lawn mower to cut grass

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

Exercise #5: Stretch your ‘stuff’

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

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

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

Post zero-waste workout tip

Cat buried in pile of bubble wrap

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

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

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


 

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

Clothing and accessories boxed up to be swapped

By: Natalie Betts

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

Step 1 

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

Step 6

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


 

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

Tammie Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

Terra Helmets

Terra Helmet engineering design graphic

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

LoFi Recycling Systems

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

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

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


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

Road to Zero Waste