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March 2016: Recycling & Composting – Creating a Zero Waste City

Background

Austin has set a goal to be a Zero Waste City by 2040. Zero Waste is a philosophy that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing trash and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) is on the front lines of achieving this goal and provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean.

In March, Conversation Corps partnered with ARR to provide dialogue opportunities about expanding residential curbside services. Residents were asked to weigh in about weekly recycling collection as well as expansion of Curbside Organics Collection from the 14,000-household pilot to citywide. Austin Resource Recovery wanted to know what kinds of services the community wants and what they are willing to pay for those services. 

More information on this month's topic can be found here.

Feedback Summary
The feedback received from the various conversations varied from conversation to conversation. There was mixed feedback on the expansion of curbside services as participants tended to prefer to focus the use of other methods to increase recycling while also decreasing unnecessary waste. The feedback also shows that the community is divided on whether curbside composting should occur as there is concern stemming from the potential costs, bugs, and smells that might occur if curbside composting is implemented. 

There were some themes that resonated across most conversations. These themes were:

  • Education and Awareness - by and large, participants wanted access to more information
    • Opportunities for adults: Having resources available for people to learn more about recycling and composting
    • Opportunities for children: Using in-school experiences to teach kids how and why to recycle as well as moving toward using recyclable goods in the lunchroom.
  • Ease of use
    • How to make recycling as easy and convenient as possible
    • Increasing the amount of recycling bins in public spaces, specifically at Capital Metro facilities.
  • Focus on incentives rather than punishments or fees 

The feedback provided shows that there significant desire for more education and awareness on Recycling and Composting as well as making the recycling process easy on those who decide to recycle. 

Read the full report here

How feedback is being used
The full feedback is currently being reviewed by the following people:

  • Austin Resource Recovery:
    • Bob Gedert, Austin Resource Recovery Director
    • City Council via ARR staff

Community Input will be taken into consideration by the Austin Resource Recovery as they develop the budget for fiscal year 2017, which will be presented to the Austin City Council later this year.

  • Austin Independent School District
    • Jen Cregar, Austin ISD Sustainability Coordinator
    • Austin ISD staff, students, and community members participating in the creation of the district's sustainability plan

Community Input will be used while developing the Austin ISD district's first sustainability plan that will address the zero waste goal and strategy.