'No Explosions Here!' What We Learned from Austin Resource Recovery's Reddit AMA

Jul 31, 2015

Have you ever wondered about if you could recycle your paper coffee cup? Or if the cap from that Topo Chico you had would gum up the recycling sorter? Have you wondered the fate of that plastic bag you filled with recyclables and tossed into the blue bin with trepidation? 

Well, today was your lucky day, Internet user. 

This morning Austin Resource Recovery took to Reddit for an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) to answer Austinites' burning recycling questions — offering a glimpse of a possibly forthcoming composting program and tips on what exactly to do with all those plastic bags you've been hoarding. Check out the highlights below.

Are bottle caps recyclable? What about foil?

The bottle caps are recyclable. For foil we ask it be rinsed and mostly free of food to be recycled. If you can't remove the food, then put it in the trash. Check out this web tool on our page.

What if my apartment doesn’t offer recycling options?

The Universal Recycling Ordinance requires apartment complexes of your size (10 units and up) to provide recycling starting October 1, 2015. If you don't see recycling by then, talk to your property manager. If that doesn't work, you can then call 3-1-1 to report your concern and we'll follow up.

We encourage you to talk to your property manager now and let them know that you are interested in recycling. We've heard that many property managers think their tenants aren't interested in recycling and that's why they don't provide it.

But will it cost extra?

Really good question, especially with concerns about affordability. Short answer - it is up to the property manager. However, with really good recycling programs, you can reduce your trash collection costs and it can balance out. If the property manager works closely with their service provider to implement a program and the tenants use it effectively/correctly, it is possible to see no change or even a reduction.

Will plastic bags ever be phased-in to Austin’s single-stream recycling? What about Styrofoam?

Plastic bags and film can't be recycled in the City's single-stream collection because it gets tangled in the processing machines. Therefore, we don't have plans to add it right now. You can take it to local grocery stores that offer plastic bag and film collection, though. We're exploring options to accept packaging styrofoam (but not takeout containers) in the near future. Right now you can take it to Texas Disposal Systems at 35 and 130 (like you mentioned), or you can drop it off at Balcones Resources in northeast Austin.

Composting at home?

So excited you are interested in composting in an apartment complex!! Since the city does not provide collection to large apartment complexes, you have a few options:

1) if you want to do it in your own home, there are small composting options available for apartment dwellers and you can get a rebate to purchase them.

2) There are a few companies that provide door to door service to collect composting and have the material processed by local gardens. Check out these websites for resources: Compost Coalition or Austin EcoNetwork.

3) Check in with your apartment property manager and see what it will take for them to get started with composting throughout the complex. We have rebates for property managers too!!

What’s the most annoying thing Austinites attempt to recycle?

We find garden hoses, wire hangers, plastic bags(including trash bags) are the most annoying! We prefer that you break it(if its cardboard) down so that it fits in the recycling bin. Otherwise if it on our list and fits in the cart, its fine!

Is paper coated in plastic wax recyclable? Bubble wrap-lined envelopes? Paper cups?

Bonded paper - not recyclable

Tetra pax or bubble wrap envelopes - not recyclable

Wax coated paper cups - not recyclable

Straws - not recyclabe, they do fall through the machines

Drink lids - yes recyclable

What happens to recyclable items in a plastic bag?

[R]ecyclables in plastic trash bags are problematic. Trash bags are often cut open by sorters at the recycling center. Then they try to sort out the recyclables that were in the bags. This requires a lot of time and is inefficient!

What about pizza boxes?

We are talking to our recycling processors right now about accepting pizza boxes that have minimal grease or food. Currently, delivery pizza boxes aren't included in the City's recycling program.

What percentage of the material that you receive is recycled?

82-85% are recycled

Can we put aerosol cans in a recycling bins, or will they explode?

So far so good, no explosions here! So, yes, it is an item we accept!

You can view the whole AMA on Austin's Subreddit.

Tags: