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Grass is Greener for Austin's Zero Waste Future


Austin’s one of the few cities in Texas where you might start composting to avoid being ostracized by friends.

Whether its groundwater, tap water, urban farming, salamander saving or the bag ban, the city’s got a whole slew of unique, environmentally-friendly idiosyncrasies. Even some of the trucks that haul trash to the landfill are green, running on natural gas.

Austin Resource Recovery recently released an overview of the city’s Zero Waste campaign – an effort to make Austin a completely waste-free city by 2040: In short, the city is coming up short, but it’s not for lack of trying.

On the Zero Waste proposed timeline, “the plan defines success as reducing by 20 percent the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75 percent of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90 percent by 2040.”

Last year, an average of 38 percent of city trash went to landfills – a substantial draw down from 47 percent in 2011 – but short of the goal to reduce the landfill waste by 20 percent. By 2015, Austin Resource Recovery looks to reduce trash headed to landfills by half. The city seeks to get three-quarters of all trash out of landfill in 2020 and at least 90 percent diverted in 2040.

Here's some other stats from Austin Resource Recovery's 2012 report, available online:

  • Composting rose in 2012, with 871 households receiving rebates on composting supplies from the city.
  • In addition, recycling numbers were up from 2011 to 2012 to 53,943 tons recycled. The city collected 128,714 tons of trash, as well.
  • The city also collected 136,659 in hazardous material, diverting 85,409 tons from landfills. 
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