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Study Finds Nearly Half of Austin's Landfill Trash Is Recyclable

A study found that nearly half of the trash collected by Austin Resource Recovery could have been recyclable.

According to a new study released by Austin Resource Recovery, almost half of residential trash collected from curbs and going into Austin landfills could have been recycled. The city-commissioned study also found that 46 percent of the residential trash that ends up in the landfill could have been composted.

“Too much paper, too much plastic, too much metals [are] going to the landfill instead of in the blue cart,” says Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery. “So although Austinites believe in recycling and set out their recycling cart with some of their recyclables, we need more recyclables from the household.”

The study from CB&I, which surveyed citywide trash collection in September and October of last year, found recyclable paper was the single most common item in the trash stream that could’ve been recycled.

The city wants to keep 50 percent of Austin’s trash out of landfills by the end of this year. Right now, 40 percent of trash has been diverted from landfills – either through recycling or composting.

Credit CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc.
A chart breaking down curbside trash collected by Austin Resource Recovery.

CB&I suggested the city ramp up recycling outreach and education programs, divert food waste from the stream by establishing a dedicated food-only collection stream for compostable material and increasing the frequency of recycling collection to once a week.

Addressing CB&I’s suggestions, Austin Resource Recovery said it plans on introducing “a new incentive outreach” plan this November, that a compost recycling plan is slated to rollout from 2016 to 2020, and that weekly recycling collection isn’t justified by the current volume, but that it’s being considered for 2017.

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