Report outlines what is going to the landfill.
Through an independent study, Austin Resource Recovery discovered that 44 percent of residential trash going to the landfill could have been recycled. An additional 46 percent could have been composted.
The Waste Characterization Study was conducted by CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc. and was the first of its kind for the City of Austin. The study looked at loads of trash and recycling collected through Austin Resource Recovery’s curbside service. The study was designed to quantify the material streams managed by Austin Resource Recovery and determine how much of the materials are diverted from the landfill through recycling or composting programs.
The City of Austin has a goal to keep 50 percent of trash out of landfills by December 2015. Currently, about 40 percent of trash is diverted from landfills by curbside customers.
“Although 96 percent of Austinites consider themselves recyclers, the reality is that more than 44 percent of Austin’s trash stream is recyclable materials,” said Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert. “This study confirms that if we recycle and compost properly, our Zero Waste goal is entirely attainable.”
The study shows that more recyclables are going to the landfill than are being recycled in residents’ blue carts.
44 percent of what is found in the trash stream could have been recycled:
- 23 percent is recyclable paper
- 13 percent is recyclable plastic
- 8 percent is recyclable metal and glass
- An estimated 58,000 tons of recyclables are going to the landfill each year. That is enough to fill the UT tower 29 times
“Processing waste has a large environmental impact and carbon footprint,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens. “If we all work together to keep those 58,000 tons of recyclables out of the landfill, Austin can avoid adding 178,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This would contribute to meeting our goal of Net-Zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.”
Zero Waste activities generate many economic benefits for our community:
- The value of recyclables thrown in the trash last year totaled $4.7 million
- Recycling creates more jobs than discarding materials in the landfill
- Austin’s recycling and reuse industries generated $720 million in economic activity in 2014 and supported over 2,600 jobs
“Austinites, it is up to you to make Zero Waste a reality for our community. Every bit counts. Get your families involved and make sure you develop good recycling habits in your homes,” Gedert said.
In the coming weeks, Austin Resource Recovery will begin a campaign to ask for Austinites thoughts and suggestions on how to increase recycling. The City will be reaching out both face-to-face and digitally to hear from as many curbside customers as possible.
To help customers recycle more, residents will receive a recycling guide in their mailbox in the next couple weeks. This guide will outline what can and cannot be recycled in their blue carts. Additionally, a tool is available at austinrecycles.com. Customers can search in the “What do I do with…” feature for a specific item to find the correct way to discard it. Visit austintexas.gov/what-do-i-do to see if you can recycle, reuse or compost your unwanted items.
Learn more about Austin’s Zero Waste initiative at austinrecycles.com. For a copy of the Waste Characterization Study, visit bit.ly/memo_waste_study or for the summary handout, visit: bit.ly/wastestudyhandout. For a copy of the Current and Potential Economic Impacts of Austin Recycling- and Reuse- Related Activity Report, visit bit.ly/eco_impact.
About Austin Resource Recovery
Austin Resource Recovery provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean. Services include curbside collection of recycling, trash, yard trimmings and large brush and bulk items; street sweeping; dead animal collection; household hazardous waste disposal and recycling; and outreach and education. In December 2011, the Austin City Council approved the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, which is the City’s roadmap to Zero Waste. The City of Austin is committed to reducing the amount of waste sent to area landfills by 90 percent by 2040 or sooner. For more information, visit austinrecycles.com