Universal recycling ordinance puts Austin on zero waste track

Your News Now (YNN
Jess Mitchell

The City of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance went into effect Monday. Austin is already the top recycle-friendly city in the state, but the goal is to stop sending all waste to landfills.

It takes a lot of heavy machinery–and about 40 hands–to sort through 25 tons of recyclables per hour. Once it is sorted, the trash makes its way to Balcones Resources new $25 million facility. It takes in the Capitol and University of Texas’ recycling, and starting this week, the center will also process waste from 170,000 Austin households.

“Trucks deliver single stream recyclables either from commercial businesses or from residential generators,” Balcones Resources CEO Kerry Getter said. “Roughly about everything north of the river, or about 60 percent of the volume.”

The new waste will add up to about 8,000 tons of waste per month, and that number will grow with the city’s new ordinance. The new mandate requires all office buildings more than 100,000 square feet and all apartment buildings with more than 75 units to recycle paper, corrugated cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass bottles.”

Andrew Dobbs with the Texas Campaign for the Environment says Austin is on the right track.

“It’s like brushing your teeth or picking up after your dog, it’s just basic decency at this point,” he said. “We have to start looking at these things as resources–there is no way to throw things away–and we have to look at each one of these discards as a resource.”

To put things in perspective, as the top recycler in the state, Austin diverts 40 percent of its waste, with Dallas coming in next at 30 percent. West Coast cities lead the way—San Francisco recycles 75 percent of its waste.