Jul 19, 2021 - 10:17 am CDT

Circular Austin Showcase: Connect. Pitch. Impact.

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin Resource Recovery is hosting its first Circular Austin Showcase on Wednesday, July 28, 6–7 p.m. The virtual event is a chance for local businesses to pitch their zero waste business ideas to a group of investors and judges. By giving these businesses a (virtual) stage, we’re helping Austin reduce waste and stay on track to reach its zero waste goal by 2040. But you may be asking, "how?"...

Each business coming to the Circular Austin Showcase is what’s known as a ‘circular business.’ Hence, the name of the event. A circular business is one that designs out or reduces waste. At the end of the day, they keep valuable resources out of the landfill and support a zero waste city. Here are a few examples of how a business can be circular:

  • A company that uses recycled or reused materials within their business is circular because this practice of using secondhand materials removes the need for new, raw materials.
  • A business that creates durable products is circular because their products are meant to last and can be used for years without the fear of it wearing down prematurely. This is known as product life extension.
  • A repair shop is circular because its services keep things working after they break.
  • A rental company is circular because it gives people access to a product or service they need without making a one-time purchase.

If you want to know more about what a circular business is, take a look at our previous blog or check out the circular interactive map of local Austin businesses with information on how they’re practicing circularity.

Austin is home to many circular businesses, and that number is expected to grow over the years. Hear from ten local circular businesses that are leading that effort today, and join us at the Circular Austin Showcase on July 28. The Circular Austin Showcase is a free, virtual event. Register to attend or learn more. We hope to see you there!

Jul 15, 2021 - 11:36 am CDT

Empty plastic water bottles in a pile

By Bailey Grimmett,

Three years ago, City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a commitment to address plastic waste (problematic for many reasons) by creating a circular economy for plastics. What does that mean? It means rethinking how we produce, use and reuse plastic so that it never becomes waste in the first place. 

Fast forward to 2020, when the City of Austin took another step towards a circular economy for plastics by joining the new U.S. Plastics Pact. This pact brought together brands, retailers, government agencies and non-governmental organizations from across the US to establish four goals to reach by 2025 (that’s only four years):  

  1. Create and define a list of problematic and/or unnecessary packaging and take measures to eliminate them by 2025. Think about the last time you went to a grocery or retail store and bought something that had plastic packaging; Was that plastic packaging or wrapping really necessary? Or was there a better, more sustainable way to offer that product in the store? 

  2. All plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.  

  3. Take steps to recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025. Based on a 2017 report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally; 36% to go! 

  4. By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%. If we think of what makes up plastic packaging as a whole pie, we want 30% of that pie to be made of recycled stuff. Or stuff that is made responsibly (like bio-based content). 

To follow through on its plastics commitment, the City of Austin has outlined several steps it will take to prevent plastic waste by 2025. It will: 

  1. Develop internal policies to limit purchasing problematic or unnecessary plastics and educate staff on these policies. 
  2. Offer consulting services to businesses that want to become ‘circular’ and establish reuse models within their organization. 
  3. Support research and development of new reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging. 
  4. Learn how much plastic Austin collects for recycling citywide (the “capture rate”) and set a target rate for 2025. 
  5. Set a target to replace plastics that are 100% made of things pulled from the planet (“virgin materials”) with 30% recycled content (not “virgin”). Also, join the Government Recycling Demand Champions Program. 
  6. Add education on plastic pollution to the City of Austin’s Generation Zero program (for kids in grades K-12), increase education about where to drop off plastic film for recycling (hint: The City’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center accepts plastic film; schedule a time to drop off your plastic film.)  and measure the impact of both of these education efforts. 

The City of Austin is proud to be a part of the US Plastics Pact and help rethink “plastic” by 2025. Check out the US Plastics Pact new Roadmap to 2025 online tool to see where we’re headed. 

Jun 07, 2021 - 03:45 pm CDT

Toaster with a Post-it note that says "broken"

By: Erica Alves 

Repair is easier than you may think! With just a few basic tools and step-by-step instructions, you can fix almost any small appliance in your home. Repairing things such as vacuums, toasters, lamps, fans and coffee makers can be an exciting and challenging hobby too. When you see your broken item come back to life, the feeling you get is so rewarding that you’ll want to do it again and again.  

What are some of the benefits of repair? Borrowing tools to repair or creating your own repair kit can be cheaper than buying a replacement item, which saves you money. By extending the life of your broken item by repair, you’re also helping the environment by eliminating the resources it takes to create a new one. So, before throwing away a broken item and buying new, consider fixing it yourself. 

Here are some tips to get started on repairing: 

Check your outlet

If your appliance or other electronic item stops working, there may be an issue with your outlet. Before giving up on it, always try other outlets around your home. The issue could be a bad connection or a tripped circuit breaker. You can also use a receptacle tester, a tool that instantly tells you if the problem is the wiring. 

Search for guides online  

A quick search can lead you to existing manuals, troubleshooting guides or how-to videos to help you identify the issue and fix it yourself. Try checking the Open Repair Alliance or resources from the library to get started. If you’re hoping to repair an older appliance, chances are it already has a manual. Type the model name and year into a search engine and see what you can find.  

Acquire a few basic tools over time 

Most basic repair requires a similar range of tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, superglue, needle and thread, and/or Allen keys. Having these in your home, or knowing which neighbor owns them (and shares), can come in handy when something unexpectedly breaks.  

Keep up with maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance is important for everyday things, as it prevents problems associated with dust, grease or rust build-up. Use an emory board to remove rust, old t-shirts or microfiber cloths to remove dust or grease, and an old toothbrush to remove build-up in tight spaces. (Safety first: when dealing with an item that plugs in, always unplug it before cleaning.) 


Following these simple steps can help both the Earth and your wallet. To learn more about repair, check out our Fix-It At Home! online repair workshop series by watching our past workshops and signing up for the Circular Economy Program newsletter to be notified when more classes become available. 

May 06, 2021 - 04:31 pm CDT

"Trash truck on fire"

By Ashley Pace:

Every day, nearly 300 trash, recycling and compost trucks hit the streets of Austin to collect the City’s residential waste. While collecting every day, our sanitation workers have seen all sorts of things end up in carts that can cause serious injury to them or anyone around. These items have the potential to spontaneously combust when exposed to high temperatures or can cause severe chemical burns:

  • Live ammunition 
  • charcoal and ashes
  • paints and paint thinner, 
  • petroleum products like gas, diesel, oil, hydraulic fluid, brake fluid or grease rags
  • and pool cleaning chemicals such as chlorine or muriatic acid

If you have live ammunition, please call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 to be connected to the Austin Police Department for proper disposal options. 

Charcoal and ash should sit overnight or be thoroughly mixed with water until cold. After charcoal or ashes have completely cooled, wrap them in aluminum foil or put them in a metal container like a coffee can before placing them in a plastic bag and putting them in your trash cart. 

Grease or oil-soaked rags should be left to dry outside, either on a line or spread out on the ground for at least 24 hours, then placed in a separate plastic bag and into your trash cart. 

Paints, paint thinners, petroleum products, and pool chemicals should never go in your cart and should be disposed of at the Recycle & Resuse Drop-off Center for recycling. 

If you are unsure of what to do with an item you need to dispose of, use the What do I do with...  tool to find the best options and keep your sanitation workers, family, friends and the planet safe. 

May 06, 2021 - 01:21 pm CDT

 

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin Resource Recovery has a variety of programs and services that help Austin reach zero waste. But did you know that it's also home to the City of Austin Brownfields Revitalization Office? In simple terms, this office works to remove contamination from properties that are being redeveloped in Austin. The type of contamination at these properties could be hazardous substances, pollutants or petroleum. Environmental concerns need to be addressed before redevelopment can begin, which is where the brownfields office comes in.

The Austin Brownfields Office was established in 1998 in order to provide site assessment and cleanup services for distressed properties; ones that are contaminated. Throughout the years, they have partnered with community organizations and local governments to return these properties back to the community as greenspace, commercial, residential or mixed-use development. The brownfields office works to bring these properties back to life so that they can be reused in a safe and healthy way by the community and residents. If you're interested in seeing Austin's brownfields sites check out the brownfields project map.

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May 06, 2021 - 11:12 am CDT

""so fresh and so clean. Green compost cart with garden hose and cleaning supplies."

By: Ashley Pace

Now you can put your food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings in your green composting cart instead of in the trash. Reducing the amount of trash you are generating in your home creates amazing benefits for our community, and the planet, but it can be a dirty job. Here are some tips to help reduce odors, moisture and pests in your green cart.

Use the right bags

"BPI logo"

Regular trash or plastic bags are not compostable and should never be placed in your green cart, but we know that going without any sort of bag can get messy. Look for the BPI-certified logo when shopping for compostable bags online or at your local grocery store. These are the only bags proven to break down completely at an industrial composting facility. Paper bags or lawn-and-leaf bags are also okay for composting.

Freeze the stinky stuff

Most plant-based foods, leaves and paper won’t create much odor between your service days, but meat, bones, fish and dairy can start to get stinky quickly. Keep these items in your freezer until you are ready to set out your green composting cart to cut the stink factor out of the equation.

Set it out every week

Even if you don’t have much in your green cart, it's important to put it out on the curb every week by 6:30 a.m. for collection. Waiting too long can lead to mold, bad smells and pests that you don’t want to deal with.

Keep it clean

Consider placing yard trimmings, newspaper or a pizza box at the bottom of your cart to absorb moisture. If your cart is getting stinky, rinse it with mild soap and water when necessary. (Be sure to pour the dirty water onto the lawn and not down a storm drain.) Sprinkle baking soda inside your green cart to absorb odors and keep it smelling fresh.

The City’s goal is to get to Zero Waste by the year 2040. It’s a big goal, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together. Use our online composting guide for more tips to make composting easier.

Apr 06, 2021 - 04:29 pm CDT

By: Ashley Pace

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

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

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

2. Become a Zero Waste Block Leader.  

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

3. Follow and share our social content.

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

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

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Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Apr 02, 2021 - 10:39 am CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 11, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

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

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


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

Separate your stuff into different categories

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

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

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

Give to your local community

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

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

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

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

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

Learn where it should go

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

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

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

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

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

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

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

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

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

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


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

Jul 15, 2021 - 11:36 am CDT

Empty plastic water bottles in a pile

By Bailey Grimmett,

Three years ago, City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a commitment to address plastic waste (problematic for many reasons) by creating a circular economy for plastics. What does that mean? It means rethinking how we produce, use and reuse plastic so that it never becomes waste in the first place. 

Fast forward to 2020, when the City of Austin took another step towards a circular economy for plastics by joining the new U.S. Plastics Pact. This pact brought together brands, retailers, government agencies and non-governmental organizations from across the US to establish four goals to reach by 2025 (that’s only four years):  

  1. Create and define a list of problematic and/or unnecessary packaging and take measures to eliminate them by 2025. Think about the last time you went to a grocery or retail store and bought something that had plastic packaging; Was that plastic packaging or wrapping really necessary? Or was there a better, more sustainable way to offer that product in the store? 

  2. All plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.  

  3. Take steps to recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025. Based on a 2017 report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally; 36% to go! 

  4. By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%. If we think of what makes up plastic packaging as a whole pie, we want 30% of that pie to be made of recycled stuff. Or stuff that is made responsibly (like bio-based content). 

To follow through on its plastics commitment, the City of Austin has outlined several steps it will take to prevent plastic waste by 2025. It will: 

  1. Develop internal policies to limit purchasing problematic or unnecessary plastics and educate staff on these policies. 
  2. Offer consulting services to businesses that want to become ‘circular’ and establish reuse models within their organization. 
  3. Support research and development of new reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging. 
  4. Learn how much plastic Austin collects for recycling citywide (the “capture rate”) and set a target rate for 2025. 
  5. Set a target to replace plastics that are 100% made of things pulled from the planet (“virgin materials”) with 30% recycled content (not “virgin”). Also, join the Government Recycling Demand Champions Program. 
  6. Add education on plastic pollution to the City of Austin’s Generation Zero program (for kids in grades K-12), increase education about where to drop off plastic film for recycling (hint: The City’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center accepts plastic film; schedule a time to drop off your plastic film.)  and measure the impact of both of these education efforts. 

The City of Austin is proud to be a part of the US Plastics Pact and help rethink “plastic” by 2025. Check out the US Plastics Pact new Roadmap to 2025 online tool to see where we’re headed. 

Road to Zero Waste
Jun 07, 2021 - 03:45 pm CDT

Toaster with a Post-it note that says "broken"

By: Erica Alves 

Repair is easier than you may think! With just a few basic tools and step-by-step instructions, you can fix almost any small appliance in your home. Repairing things such as vacuums, toasters, lamps, fans and coffee makers can be an exciting and challenging hobby too. When you see your broken item come back to life, the feeling you get is so rewarding that you’ll want to do it again and again.  

What are some of the benefits of repair? Borrowing tools to repair or creating your own repair kit can be cheaper than buying a replacement item, which saves you money. By extending the life of your broken item by repair, you’re also helping the environment by eliminating the resources it takes to create a new one. So, before throwing away a broken item and buying new, consider fixing it yourself. 

Here are some tips to get started on repairing: 

Check your outlet

If your appliance or other electronic item stops working, there may be an issue with your outlet. Before giving up on it, always try other outlets around your home. The issue could be a bad connection or a tripped circuit breaker. You can also use a receptacle tester, a tool that instantly tells you if the problem is the wiring. 

Search for guides online  

A quick search can lead you to existing manuals, troubleshooting guides or how-to videos to help you identify the issue and fix it yourself. Try checking the Open Repair Alliance or resources from the library to get started. If you’re hoping to repair an older appliance, chances are it already has a manual. Type the model name and year into a search engine and see what you can find.  

Acquire a few basic tools over time 

Most basic repair requires a similar range of tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, superglue, needle and thread, and/or Allen keys. Having these in your home, or knowing which neighbor owns them (and shares), can come in handy when something unexpectedly breaks.  

Keep up with maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance is important for everyday things, as it prevents problems associated with dust, grease or rust build-up. Use an emory board to remove rust, old t-shirts or microfiber cloths to remove dust or grease, and an old toothbrush to remove build-up in tight spaces. (Safety first: when dealing with an item that plugs in, always unplug it before cleaning.) 


Following these simple steps can help both the Earth and your wallet. To learn more about repair, check out our Fix-It At Home! online repair workshop series by watching our past workshops and signing up for the Circular Economy Program newsletter to be notified when more classes become available. 

Road to Zero Waste
May 06, 2021 - 04:31 pm CDT

"Trash truck on fire"

By Ashley Pace:

Every day, nearly 300 trash, recycling and compost trucks hit the streets of Austin to collect the City’s residential waste. While collecting every day, our sanitation workers have seen all sorts of things end up in carts that can cause serious injury to them or anyone around. These items have the potential to spontaneously combust when exposed to high temperatures or can cause severe chemical burns:

  • Live ammunition 
  • charcoal and ashes
  • paints and paint thinner, 
  • petroleum products like gas, diesel, oil, hydraulic fluid, brake fluid or grease rags
  • and pool cleaning chemicals such as chlorine or muriatic acid

If you have live ammunition, please call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 to be connected to the Austin Police Department for proper disposal options. 

Charcoal and ash should sit overnight or be thoroughly mixed with water until cold. After charcoal or ashes have completely cooled, wrap them in aluminum foil or put them in a metal container like a coffee can before placing them in a plastic bag and putting them in your trash cart. 

Grease or oil-soaked rags should be left to dry outside, either on a line or spread out on the ground for at least 24 hours, then placed in a separate plastic bag and into your trash cart. 

Paints, paint thinners, petroleum products, and pool chemicals should never go in your cart and should be disposed of at the Recycle & Resuse Drop-off Center for recycling. 

If you are unsure of what to do with an item you need to dispose of, use the What do I do with...  tool to find the best options and keep your sanitation workers, family, friends and the planet safe. 

Road to Zero Waste
May 06, 2021 - 01:21 pm CDT

 

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin Resource Recovery has a variety of programs and services that help Austin reach zero waste. But did you know that it's also home to the City of Austin Brownfields Revitalization Office? In simple terms, this office works to remove contamination from properties that are being redeveloped in Austin. The type of contamination at these properties could be hazardous substances, pollutants or petroleum. Environmental concerns need to be addressed before redevelopment can begin, which is where the brownfields office comes in.

The Austin Brownfields Office was established in 1998 in order to provide site assessment and cleanup services for distressed properties; ones that are contaminated. Throughout the years, they have partnered with community organizations and local governments to return these properties back to the community as greenspace, commercial, residential or mixed-use development. The brownfields office works to bring these properties back to life so that they can be reused in a safe and healthy way by the community and residents. If you're interested in seeing Austin's brownfields sites check out the brownfields project map.

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Road to Zero Waste
May 06, 2021 - 11:12 am CDT

""so fresh and so clean. Green compost cart with garden hose and cleaning supplies."

By: Ashley Pace

Now you can put your food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings in your green composting cart instead of in the trash. Reducing the amount of trash you are generating in your home creates amazing benefits for our community, and the planet, but it can be a dirty job. Here are some tips to help reduce odors, moisture and pests in your green cart.

Use the right bags

"BPI logo"

Regular trash or plastic bags are not compostable and should never be placed in your green cart, but we know that going without any sort of bag can get messy. Look for the BPI-certified logo when shopping for compostable bags online or at your local grocery store. These are the only bags proven to break down completely at an industrial composting facility. Paper bags or lawn-and-leaf bags are also okay for composting.

Freeze the stinky stuff

Most plant-based foods, leaves and paper won’t create much odor between your service days, but meat, bones, fish and dairy can start to get stinky quickly. Keep these items in your freezer until you are ready to set out your green composting cart to cut the stink factor out of the equation.

Set it out every week

Even if you don’t have much in your green cart, it's important to put it out on the curb every week by 6:30 a.m. for collection. Waiting too long can lead to mold, bad smells and pests that you don’t want to deal with.

Keep it clean

Consider placing yard trimmings, newspaper or a pizza box at the bottom of your cart to absorb moisture. If your cart is getting stinky, rinse it with mild soap and water when necessary. (Be sure to pour the dirty water onto the lawn and not down a storm drain.) Sprinkle baking soda inside your green cart to absorb odors and keep it smelling fresh.

The City’s goal is to get to Zero Waste by the year 2040. It’s a big goal, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together. Use our online composting guide for more tips to make composting easier.

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 06, 2021 - 04:29 pm CDT

By: Ashley Pace

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

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

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

2. Become a Zero Waste Block Leader.  

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

3. Follow and share our social content.

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

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

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Road to Zero Waste
Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

By: Bailey Grimmett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

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

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


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

Separate your stuff into different categories

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

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

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

Give to your local community

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

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

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

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

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

Learn where it should go

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

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

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

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

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

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

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

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

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

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


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

Road to Zero Waste