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Compost concept

City of Austin cultivates new pilot program for collecting organic waste

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Austin Photo: News_Ryan_Organic waste collection_Jan 2013_pilot map
Neighborhoods that will take part in the yearlong pilot program. Courtesy of City of Austin
Austin photo: News_Ryan_Organic waste collection_Jan 2013_compost
Austin Photo: News_Ryan_Organic waste collection_Jan 2013_pilot map

The City of Austin has initiated the next step in another plan to make the city greener, while also making things a little browner as well.

After a nearly yearlong program that tested the logistics at local restaurants, the pilot program to collect organic waste from residences will expand to some 7,900 households around Austin. If the one-year pilot is successful, the compost collections would expand and help city officials reach their Zero Waste goal of diverting more than 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2040.

If a citywide organics collection program is put into effect within the next few years, it could have a huge and almost immediate payoff on the amount of waste sent to landfills. According to Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert, nearly half of the current materials sent to landfills could be composted. Useful materials won’t be wasted as much, along with the added bonus of reducing greenhouse gases.

Some folks could see composting as a niche and laborious hobby, but the City seems focused on making the process easy and simple. Residents will now receive a green, 96 gallon bin (the same size as the blue recycling bins) to place on the curb for weekly collections. Every household will also receive a small food-scraps collector to make it a bit easier to carry organic waste from the kitchen to the curb.

Materials suitable for composting will include everything from yard trimmings and food scraps to food-soiled paper items. The collection of grease-soaked pizza boxes from student residences alone should make the program worthwhile.

Neighborhoods partaking in the pilot program are scattered throughout the city limits, with the primary goal being to help refine curbside collections and to determine if there would be an impact on future rates. Each neighborhood taking part in the experiment is meant to provide a diverse sampling of Austin’s demographics for the best pool of data to draw conclusions from and to make it possible to expand the program to every customer in the city by 2016.

Resource Recovery officials also believe that the organic waste collection will mean that customers can keep a little extra green in their pocket. If a residence separates enough organic waste from their net disposals, they throw away less trash in their regular garbage bins. By throwing away less trash, customers can then downsize the size of the trash receptacles offered by the city, with smaller sizes costing less for each monthly utility bill.

The program is just barely starting, but it can be a huge move for Austin’s sustainable future. Plenty of kinks may need to be worked out over the next year, such as trying to get used to the smell, but if your area is part of the pilot program, Austin Resource Recovery already has informational resources at your disposal. 

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