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All Austin Restaurants Will Start Composting Food Scraps by 2017

Taking out the trash is a thing of the past: All Austin restaurants will have to start composting by 2017, and restaurants 5,000 square feet and up only have until 2016. The Austin City Council approved the ordinance change today.

Don’t worry: your favorite restaurant isn’t tearing up the parking lot and turning it into a compost heap. Restaurants will be allowed take their pick of private contractors to pick up their food scraps and haul them off for composting.

The W Hotel downtown says it already has composting practices in place that it won’t need any additional changes.

"We have a custom compactor thatTexas Disposal Systemsmade for us," says Valarie Broussard, beverage buyer and forager – yes, forager – for the W and  adjoining restaurant Trace. "You open one door and that's where all the food scraps and otherwise compost materials go and the other half is where all the recyclable go. You close the door, hit the button and it compacts it." The compacted compost materials are then collected at least twice as week. During last March, Broussard  says 19 percent of the hotel's total waste was compost materials – weighing about 25,000 lbs.

Some restaurants have expressed concern about the cost. Austin Resource Recovery director Bob Gedert said his department will work with restaurants to keep the cost down.

Broussard did not say the cost for the composting service. She did say, however, that the benefits of composting outweighs the cost.

“By diverting away [the compost material] from the landfill we are creating something of value that can be used on farms, people’s gardens, and we won’t have to use chemical fertilizer,” Broussard said.

The City of Austin Zero Waste initiative aims to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by 2040. Austin Resource Recovery recently issued its 2012 report, outlining progress toward its Zero Waste goals. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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