COVID-19 service and facility updates from Austin Resource Recovery

Jan 8, 2021 - 2:25 pm

By: Keri Greenwalt 

Happy New Year, Austinites! Thanks for your patience and understanding of the ever-changing situation created by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Since March 2020, there have been several changes to Austin Resource Recovery services and facilities and we’d like to ensure you have the latest, most up-to-date information on each of your services and explain why those changes took place. 

Although many of our services are contactless, adhering to social distancing guidelines was not the only driving force behind the service change decisions we were forced to make. Like many other essential services, Austin Resource Recovery has been experiencing staffing and other resource shortages.  

We have added multiple safety measures to keep our operations staff safe and healthy, but we have still struggled with having enough staff to provide all of our usual services. Even prior to the pandemic, the United States has been experiencing a shortage of solid waste service drivers. In fact, the nation has been facing the highest shortage of truck drivers in over a decade and, when it comes to solid waste, it can be attributed to the level of danger in the occupation, the increased demand for these services (due to industry growth) and low participation of women in the industry. This already existing shortage, paired with additional challenges presented by COVID-19, (like staff being out on leave or vacating positions for other CDL positions offering large bonuses and/or higher salaries, and increased volumes of material being produced by Austinites at home), forced the temporary suspension of some non-essential services so resources could be dedicated to fulfilling essential services. 

In addition, Austin Resource Recovery struggled to have enough staff in fleet services that could work on downed vehicles, so we were sometimes short on equipment even if drivers were available to fulfill services.    

Here is a status update for Austin Resource Recovery’s services and facilities. 

The Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center is temporarily closed 

In response to the increasing concerns of COVID-19, and for the safety of our staff and residents, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center is closed to the public and dropoffs are no longer accepted at this time. However, Austin-Travis County residents can schedule contactless pick-up of household hazardous waste from their home for safe disposal. Items for reuse or recycling cannot be picked up at this time and we ask that you hold onto those items if you can or use our What Do I Do With... tool to find other zero waste options.  

The recent closure of this facility began on December 24, with the escalation to COVID-19 community risk Stage 5 in Austin-Travis County. The guidelines associated with this risk stage suggest business should be conducted through contactless options only, and that gatherings with anyone outside of the household should be avoided, making it impossible for the facility to remain safely open. Previous to the December 24 closure, the facility was operating at a limited capacity, by appointment only. 

Large brush and bulk collections are operating on regular schedules 

For part of 2020, twice annual large brush and bulk collection services were temporarily suspended. Both services are now operating on regular schedules and curbside customers can check their upcoming collection dates in the Austin Recycles mobile app or by entering their address in the My Schedule tool and scrolling through the calendar months until the collections appear. 

Street sweeping services are currently operating behind schedule 

Residential street sweeping services were also suspended for part of last year. Although street sweeping has been reinstated, the services are operating behind schedule as there is a continued need to dedicate resources to other areas. We appreciate your continued patience and will service all residential areas as soon as possible.  

The Curbside Composting Program is expanding to all curbside customers in February 

In February, the final expansion of curbside composting, to approximately 55,000 additional Austin households, will begin. Currently, about 152,000 homes receive this service. This final expansion will provide the service to all remaining Austin Resource Recovery customers after a four-year phased in approach that began in 2017. This year, in order to adhere to COVID-19 safety regulations, we will hold a virtual town hall on January 28 and will delay the opportunity to distribute free kitchen collectors and compostable bags until it can be done safely for both customers and staff. We will keep customers informed of any future plans to distribute free kitchen collectors, but encourage them to use reusable containers, coffee cans or paper bags for collecting food scraps in the meantime. See our curbside composting guide for tips and additional information. This expansion was previously scheduled to take place in 2020 but was delayed slightly due to COVID-19.  

Recycling, composting (or yard trimmings), trash and on-call clothing and housewares collection services remain on regular schedules 

While many municipalities throughout the country and the state of Texas have suspended recycling services due to COVID-19, Austin Resource Recovery feels fortunate that its recyclingcomposting/yard trimmings and on-call clothing and housewares collections have remained in service throughout the pandemic. There were times when resources had to be diverted from other areas to make this possible. 

Extra trash fees were temporarily waived for several months, but the fees were reinstated as usual in September 2020. 

Stay connected with us 

Connect with us to ensure you are always in the know about your Austin Resource Recovery services: 

  • Download the Austin Recycles app on your mobile device or use the My Schedule tool on our website to sign up for reminders for all of your services. Doing so will also ensure you receive any important service changes  related to COVID-19 or otherwise.  

  • Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates on services, events and the latest zero waste news and tips. We send only one email a month and we never share your information. 

  • Follow us on Facebook to see COVID-19 updates, news about zero waste and tips to help reduce waste in your life. 

  • If you have questions related to Austin Resource Recovery or zero waste, feel free to email us at daretogozero@austinrecycles.com

  • If you’d like to get more involved, consider becoming a zero waste block leader

We thank you for your patience during these challenging times, we thank our essential workers for all of their hard work and sacrifice, and we hope for better times to come in 2021. 

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