Feb 06, 2020 - 12:02 pm CST

Woman recycles plastic bag with disgusted look on her face

By: Ashley Pace

Breakups are hard, but deep down you know it’s usually for the best. Especially, when you are breaking up with plastic bags. Many Austinites are in the habit of bringing their own bags to the grocery store, but there are a lot of unexpected ways to get more use out of the dozens of reusable bags you have likely accumulated. So as you say “bye bye bye” to flimsy single-use plastic bags forever, say hello to your new friend with benefits: the reusable bag.   

All the shopping

So you’ve finally gotten into the habit of bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. YAY! But what about other shopping around town? Bring your own bag to tote around clothes, hair products, to-go orders or convenience store grabs. 

Woman shops for clothing with her reusable bag

Daily grab-n-go items

Use your sturdy reusable bags to carry around your cosmetics, lunch, computer, or gym gear on a daily basis. 

Woman opens the door to the gym, carrying her reusable water bottle and reusable bag

The gift that keeps on giving

Many of the cute gift bags we see at the store are made with glitter, plastic and foil, all of which makes them unrecyclable. There are so many options for reusable totes that you can add to your already excellent gift by giving it in a reusable bag. 

Woman presents a gift to her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag

Fido forever

Dog carriers can be bulky and expensive, but with a great reusable bag, there is no need to purchase anything extra. Just pop your pup in and let them enjoy Austin’s amazing culture with you. 

Woman carries her Boston Terrier in a reusable bag to meet a friend

Pack a picnic

Take advantage of that spur-of-the-moment great weather and eat your lunch outside. Pack a picnic with all your treats and reusable gear and seize the day.   

Woman has a picnic with her Boston Terrier, using her reusable bag

Ending any relationship, especially one as long-term as your relationship with plastic bags can take time and dedication before you cut strings for good. With these tips, you can finally end that toxic relationship and move on to a greener, brighter future with your reusable bags. 

Don't forget to properly recycle the plastic bags you have.

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Feb 06, 2020 - 11:36 am CST

People in seats attending a Reverse Pitch opening pitch event

By: Bailey Grimmett

Each year, Austin entrepreneurs gather business ideas from a very unlikely source: local dumpsters. But not just any dumpster— a business’s dumpster. The annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a social innovation program that helps turn valuable raw materials that are currently leaving local businesses as waste into a resource for a new business.

The competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, starts with an opening pitch event and an audience of entrepreneurs. Unlike your traditional elevator pitch, [Re]Verse Pitch sets the stage for businesses and non-profits to pitch their material to an entrepreneur. Their goal? Inspire an innovator to take the pitched material, find a way to turn it into a resource for a new, successful business venture and ultimately keep the material out of the landfill.  By encouraging entrepreneurs to turn one business’s “waste” into their business’s resource, [Re]Verse pitch inspires profitable ventures while supporting a circular local economy.

For its fifth year, [Re]Verse Pitch is throwing it back… by bringing back previously pitched materials! Five businesses and nonprofits will take the stage to pitch their surplus materials which are the following:

  • Decorator fabric samples from Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association
  • Vinyl record defects and trimmings from Gold Rush Vinyl
  • Die-cut skeletons made of PVC/PEC from HID Global
  • Pressboard office furniture from University of Texas Resource Recovery
  • All-purpose PVC sandals from Travis County Sherriff’s Office

While these items may seem like waste to the untrained eye, this competition encourages entrepreneurs to view them as valuable resources, and find winning ways to put the materials to use.

During the coming months, entrepreneurs and teams will be matched to a mentor with whom they will create and refine a business idea using the pitched material. Qualifying business ideas and models will be pitched at a final event in April for the chance to win one of two $10,000 Innovation Prizes.  At the closing event in April two teams – one new business idea and one existing business that is able to incorporate use of one of the materials – will be crowned [Re]Verse champions.

Want to be one of the artists or entrepreneurs creating business waste solutions? Jump into Austin’s circular economy by attending or competing in this year’s opening pitch event. The first stage of the competition will be held at UT’s Rowling Hall on Monday, February 10 from 6 to 8 p.m., and is open to the public. To learn more, visit www.ReversePitch.org.

Jan 10, 2020 - 01:41 pm CST

"2020 New Year's Resolutions" with Zero waste bathrooms

By: Susanne Harm and Bailey Grimmett

It’s been more than a year since the City of Austin joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Austinites and businesses have worked together to decrease the amount of plastic and other single-use items used each day. To that we say, “Kudos!”

Let's look beyond plastic straws and toward the year ahead. We found even more opportunities to make a difference by keeping plastics from overwhelming our City and our seas. Here are some New Year’s resolutions we can all make to reduce single-use plastics in order to contribute to Austin’s commitment in the New Plastics Economy and help the City reach its Zero Waste goal by 2040 (t-minus 20 years to go!).

Buy products, without plastic

  • Have you ever visited the bulk section of your local grocery store? If not, take a peek on your next trip. You’ll find that many items you regularly buy pre-packaged are offered in bulk. This means you get to decide the quantity you take home, purchasing only what you need. Plus, you can help reduce the need for plastic (and other) packaging by bringing reusable containers to fill. You could save money too, since bulk products are often less expensive.
  • If you do decide to buy items from the shelf, seek out products packaged in alternative materials. Sauces in glass jars, eggs without Styrofoam cartons, beverages in aluminum cans and pasta in cardboard boxes are all good options.

Put in place a personal care routine, without plastic

  • Many bath products are sold in plastic bottles. You can ditch those containers by buying shampoo, conditioner and soap in bar form. Bars tend to offer more washes than their bottled counterparts, so you may even save some green while forming greener bath habits.
  • Look for natural alternatives to plastic products. Real loofahs, bamboo toothbrushes and silk floss are great choices.
  • Play the refill game. You can reduce waste in the bathroom by joining a shaving subscription club and buying deodorant sticks that can be refilled.

Be the life of the party, without plastic

  • Instead of solo cups and plastic silverware, try renting items from the Austin Dish Lending Library. If you have access to composting, BPI-certified, compostable items may be a good option for your next party. You may also find it cost-effective to visit thrift stores and put together a set of party dishes to have on hand.
  • As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. Meaning all that glitter donning your favorite party décor is harmful to our environment. The pieces of microplastic that make up glitter can end up in waterways, get ingested by animals and end up in our food system. Alternatively, try paper confetti to add some color and flare to your affair.
  • In addition, wrapping paper made of glitter and other foil materials can't be recycled in Austin. Instead, use cloth, posters or newspaper to wrap your gifts.

Thinking before purchasing is the best way to make a difference in reducing plastic use. When we choose to buy products with reusable materials and packaging, our dollars support businesses that focus on the planet. This new year, let’s take a major step in reducing plastic waste and moving the dial towards Zero Waste.

Jan 10, 2020 - 12:37 pm CST

pile of electronics to be recycled.

By: Andy Dawson

Each year, Americans throw away 9.4 million tons of electronics! Much of that waste turns up during, and immediately following, the holiday season. Out with the old, in with the new, right?

Electronics don’t seem to last long these days, especially when a new phone with a better camera and newer technology is released every six months. The EPA estimates that 350,000 phones are thrown out each day! Old electronics don’t belong in the trash can. If not disposed of properly, these items can be dangerous. Many contain lithium batteries, which are fragile and can start fires when tossed around in a trash or recycling truck. In addition, most electronics contain toxic chemicals which can seep into our groundwater if placed in the landfill. So, what are the reuse and disposal options for these items?

In Austin, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center accepts most kinds of electronics for recycling. In addition to mobile phones, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, battery backups, televisions and even clothes washers and dryers are accepted here, six days a week, free of charge to Austin residents. More than 539 tons of electronics were collected and recycled at the Drop-off Center in 2019.

Remember, the best practice in the name of Zero Waste is always to use the item for as long as you can. If it’s still in working order but no longer of use to you, donate it. If it doesn't work, drop it off to be recycled.

Dec 12, 2019 - 01:22 pm CST

The remnants of used gift wrap and ribbons sit under a tree.

By: Bailey Grimmett

Once the holiday hustle and bustle slows down and the presents have been unwrapped, you’re somehow left with a mountain of excess materials such as cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, Styrofoam and other packaging materials. You’re not alone! In fact, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases an estimated 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day!  But, did you know that a majority of holiday wrapping material can be recycled and/or repurposed? Check out our list of alternative ways to dispose of excess holiday gifting materials.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam is not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart, but you can take these items to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, where they will be recycled safely and properly. You can also use the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept this material.

Tip: Packing peanuts cannot be recycled at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, but many local mailing centers will accept this material for recycling. 

Cardboard

Cardboard is accepted in your blue recycling cart. Break down and collapse the cardboard before placing the material in your cart.

Wrapping paper/gift wrap

Plain wrapping paper is accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, wrapping paper with glitter or foil is not accepted in your blue recycling cart; consider reusing this material for future gifts or other creative projects. 

Tape left on the wrapping paper can be recycled (but try to use as little as possible while wrapping your gifts!)

Tip: Before purchasing new wrapping paper, consider wrapping your gifts with reusable materials such as newspaper or using reusable gift bags this holiday season.

Ribbon and bows

Ribbon and bows are not accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, these items are the easiest to reuse, so hold onto them and reuse them for future gifting. You can also find local organizations that will accept these materials.

Bubble wrap, plastic wrap and other plastic film

Stretchy, flexible materials such as bubble wrap and plastic are not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart. However, you can take this material to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center; the material must be clean and dry before being dropped off. Additionally, local retailers will accept these items for recycling -- use our handy tool to find a location near you.

Extra Recycling

If you find that your blue recycling cart is overflowing with recyclable materials this holiday season, don’t worry! Place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. If you have excess cardboard, please cut or fold the cardboard into 2 feet by 2 feet piles, and tie them into manageable bundles with string or twine. Place the bundles next to your recycling cart. Extra recyclables will be picked up at no extra change. If you find that you often have extra recycling, you can call 512-494-9400 to request an additional blue cart, free of charge.

Dec 12, 2019 - 12:21 pm CST

By: Nolan Fleming

The Holidays are in full swing. Along with all the joy and merriment, they can also bring a lot of extra waste! In fact, the United States generates 25 percent more waste during the holiday season. Here are some ways you can put a freeze on the issue and spread some eco-friendly cheer.

Gifts

Think back on the Holidays last year and the gifts you received. How many of those gifts do you actually use to this day? The gifts that stand out to me have always been experiences or a story to share with friends and family. This year, consider giving the gift of a great story that the recipient can tell for years to come.  Plan a local adventure or take a woodworking class together, repair a well-worn favorite sweater or find a gift with its own unique history at an antique store.

Wrapping

Gifts wrapped with reused paper bags

Unfortunately, wrapping paper that has foil or glitter, photo paper and ribbon are not recyclable. Instead, try wrapping your gifts with newspaper, posters, maps, fabric or reuseable gift bags to add a personal touch and avoid the non-recyclables.

Shipping

Now that you have wrapped all these gifts in eco-friendly, reusable materials, it’s time to ship them with that same level of environmental care. Reuse cardboard boxes and other shipping materials. Rather than buying packing peanuts or bubble wrap, try using  balled-up, recyclable paper.

Season’s greetings

Planning to send out holiday cards? Instead of using traditional paper and glitter-embossed cards, try sending out Ecards! They are paperless, interactive and easy to distribute. Plus you save on postage! Repurpose any cards you receive to make gift tags, gift boxes or place settings for holiday meals.

Hosting a holiday feast

Woman sets table for a holiday meal.

When it comes to meals, many of us rely on disposable tableware for the uncharacteristically large number of people that we will be serving. Take the extra time to find reusable dishware by borrowing from a family member or friend, or by visiting your local thrift store. You can also reach out to the Austin Dish Lending Library, a new, local service that loans reusable dishes and silverware to Austin area residents at no cost.

 

Use these tips to make a difference this holiday season by reducing your waste, and your spending. You may even gift yourself a little extra time by not spending it in a crowded department store or post office.

Nov 14, 2019 - 03:02 pm CST

Cooked turkey gets pulled out of pot after frying

By: Andy Dawson

Many people deep fry turkeys during the holiday season, leaving behind a lot of used cooking oil. But, what do you do with it afterwards? It can actually be dropped off for recycling!

The City of Austin’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) collects more than 12,000 pounds of cooking oil and grease annually, as part of its household hazardous waste collection program. During and after the holidays, the center sees an influx of people dropping off oil, and it’s not just the normal quart or two. Austinites drop off a few gallons at a time after frying their turkeys.

Once collected at the RRDOC, the oil is poured into a 100-gallon tank. A vendor then picks up the tank and processes the used cooking oil into biodiesel, which is a more safe, biodegradable and clean burning transportation fuel than petroleum-based diesel.

Collecting this oil also keeps it out of water pipes, where it can solidify and develop into fatbergs that clog up Austin’s water lines, resulting in expensive repairs, foul odors and sewer overflows. Fatbergs are made of congealed fats and other non-biodegradable items like “flushable” wet wipes, and are the cause of nearly half of all septic clogs in the United States.

Recycling your cooking oil and grease is just one more way you can help the environment and the City where you live.

Nov 14, 2019 - 10:57 am CST

Plate with cloth napkin and silverware

By: Bailey Grimmett

Thanksgiving brings together family, friends and communities. It also brings with it a lot of hungry guests, food and place settings. If you are scrambling to find reusable dishware for your holiday hosting, there’s a new service in town that’s here to help.

The Austin Dish Lending Library is a new, local service that provides Austin area residents with reusable alternatives to single-use dishes and utensils. What does that mean? Well, it’s exactly like a library, but instead of books, it’s bowls. With the Dish Lending Library, people can temporarily borrow plates, bowls, cups, silverware and other dishware for an upcoming event, whether it be an office party or at-home Thanksgiving celebration. Not only does using the library save you money (it’s free!), but it also helps keep single-use plastics out of the landfill.

The woman behind the Austin Dish Lending Library is Joanna Tychowski, a local resident with a vision for Austin’s zero waste future. Based on her own experience trying to find reusable dishware for an event, and not wanting to resort to single-use plastics, Joanna was inspired to start the Dish Lending Library this past year, with a goal of encouraging sustainable practices by local residents.

While the library is only a few months old (founded August 2019), it’s starting to get the attention it deserves. “It’s slowly growing,” says Tychowski. “We expect the upcoming holiday months to be a busier period since a lot of food consumption happens during this time.”

Joanna hasn’t been surprised by the high level of participation. “Many Austinites are aware of the City’s zero waste goals, and they use the Dish Lending Library as a way to contribute to that goal.” She’s hopeful that more people will learn about and use the service so that it can expand, and serve even more residents throughout the area.

“My vision is to have several Dish Lending Library branches located in Austin neighborhoods. This will encourage more participation and ensure faster and easier delivery of materials to the customer.”

If you’re hosting a holiday feast (or just an everyday dinner or event), consider utilizing the Austin Dish Lending Library. The process is simple: visit the Dish Lending Library website and submit a borrow request form. From there, you’ll coordinate the drop-off and pick-up details with Joanna, who will work with your schedule and location, and that’s it! You’re ready to serve up some sustenance, sustainably.  

Tip: Before placing your dishware order with the Austin Dish Lending Library, estimate the amount of food you’ll be preparing and serving by using Save the Food’s “Guest-imator.” This food calculator will estimate just how much food you need for an event/party based on size, hunger (how many guests prefer small portions or large portions), food spread and more. Get even more tips for a zero waste holiday in last year’s Thanksgiving blog. Let’s reduce the amount of waste traditionally generated from a hearty Thanksgiving feast and move Austin one step closer to its zero waste goal.

Happy Thanksgiving from Austin Resource Recovery.

Nov 13, 2019 - 04:04 pm CST

By: Bailey Grimmett

America Recycles Day is a day to pat ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come in recycling efforts, both nationally and locally. But did you know 20 percent of Austin’s recycling is contaminated? Contamination occurs when we put non-recyclable materials or garbage into our recycling carts, which can cause major issues later on at the recycling facility. One of the largest contaminants? “Tanglers.”

Tanglers are items such as plastic bags, trash bags, garden hoses, clothing, rope and other flexible items that can cause problems during the recycling process.

Imagine a large recycling sorting facility (where the items from your blue recycling cart end up). This facility has several large machines that are made up of a series of gears and cogs moving at high speeds, sorting through the materials. When plastic bags, garden hoses, ropes and other tanglers end up in this sorting process, they get wrapped around the gears and cogs of the machine. This leads to delays and even standstills in operations, as employees must now shut down the machinery in order to remove the items. It’s a tangled mess.

You can make a difference. This America Recycles Day, Austin Resource Recovery asks Austinites to Untangle ATX by keeping tanglers out of their blue recycling carts. If you see an item that is made of flexible, stretchy or long material, take a second to ask, “Could this material/item get wrapped around the gears of a machine?” If the answer is yes, don’t put it in your blue recycling cart.

Remember, while these items are not accepted in your blue recycling cart, they might be recyclable in other ways. To find alternative ways to dispose of these items, check out our ‘What Do I Do With’ tool. You can also reach out to us on Facebook or by calling 3-1-1.

rope and other tanglers wrapped around gears at recycling sorting facility


Keep these tanglers out of the blue recycling cart:

Plastic bags, trash bags, plastic film & wrap

Plastic bags and film: keep out of blue cart

What do I do with it?

Some local retailers and stores accept these items for recycling— check our What Do I Do With tool to find a location near you.

Garden hoses

garden hose : keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse or recycling, or place in your trash cart.

 

Strings of lights & electrical cords

string of lights and extension cord: keep out of clue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Drop these items off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center to be recycled or disposed of safely.

 

Clothing & Textiles

clothing and textiles: keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse or drop these items off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center to be recycled.

 

Rope

rope: keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse.

 

Oct 11, 2019 - 02:11 pm CDT

two children are dressed in homemade costumes: a cowboy and a cat.

By: Ashley Pace

Most store-bought Halloween costumes cost $20-$60 per person and are made of cheap polyester materials that are thrown away after a single wear. Instead of going for the quick grab at the party store, consider these eek-o-friendly alternatives to save some green and give those costumes a second life.

  1. Host a costume swap:  Whether in person or online, encourage your friends, family and neighbors to share their previously used Halloween costumes. Some neighborhoods even host community-wide events! Check local libraries, recreation centers or event pages for swaps near you.
  1. Use what you have: Get creative with clothing you already own and will wear again after Halloween is over. Look for inspiration and get crafty to make what you don’t already have. 
  1. New to you: If hosting a swap or DIYing a costume aren’t for you, shop for costumes that are pre-loved. Use the Austin Reuse Directory to look for thrift stores near you or change the condition filter to used on your preferred online shopping platform. A costume doesn't have to be new to be 'new to you.'

Feb 06, 2020 - 11:36 am CST

People in seats attending a Reverse Pitch opening pitch event

By: Bailey Grimmett

Each year, Austin entrepreneurs gather business ideas from a very unlikely source: local dumpsters. But not just any dumpster— a business’s dumpster. The annual [Re]Verse Pitch Competition is a social innovation program that helps turn valuable raw materials that are currently leaving local businesses as waste into a resource for a new business.

The competition, organized by the City of Austin, Austin Young Chamber and community partners, starts with an opening pitch event and an audience of entrepreneurs. Unlike your traditional elevator pitch, [Re]Verse Pitch sets the stage for businesses and non-profits to pitch their material to an entrepreneur. Their goal? Inspire an innovator to take the pitched material, find a way to turn it into a resource for a new, successful business venture and ultimately keep the material out of the landfill.  By encouraging entrepreneurs to turn one business’s “waste” into their business’s resource, [Re]Verse pitch inspires profitable ventures while supporting a circular local economy.

For its fifth year, [Re]Verse Pitch is throwing it back… by bringing back previously pitched materials! Five businesses and nonprofits will take the stage to pitch their surplus materials which are the following:

  • Decorator fabric samples from Austin Creative Reuse and International Interior Designers Association
  • Vinyl record defects and trimmings from Gold Rush Vinyl
  • Die-cut skeletons made of PVC/PEC from HID Global
  • Pressboard office furniture from University of Texas Resource Recovery
  • All-purpose PVC sandals from Travis County Sherriff’s Office

While these items may seem like waste to the untrained eye, this competition encourages entrepreneurs to view them as valuable resources, and find winning ways to put the materials to use.

During the coming months, entrepreneurs and teams will be matched to a mentor with whom they will create and refine a business idea using the pitched material. Qualifying business ideas and models will be pitched at a final event in April for the chance to win one of two $10,000 Innovation Prizes.  At the closing event in April two teams – one new business idea and one existing business that is able to incorporate use of one of the materials – will be crowned [Re]Verse champions.

Want to be one of the artists or entrepreneurs creating business waste solutions? Jump into Austin’s circular economy by attending or competing in this year’s opening pitch event. The first stage of the competition will be held at UT’s Rowling Hall on Monday, February 10 from 6 to 8 p.m., and is open to the public. To learn more, visit www.ReversePitch.org.

Road to Zero Waste
Jan 10, 2020 - 01:41 pm CST

"2020 New Year's Resolutions" with Zero waste bathrooms

By: Susanne Harm and Bailey Grimmett

It’s been more than a year since the City of Austin joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. Austinites and businesses have worked together to decrease the amount of plastic and other single-use items used each day. To that we say, “Kudos!”

Let's look beyond plastic straws and toward the year ahead. We found even more opportunities to make a difference by keeping plastics from overwhelming our City and our seas. Here are some New Year’s resolutions we can all make to reduce single-use plastics in order to contribute to Austin’s commitment in the New Plastics Economy and help the City reach its Zero Waste goal by 2040 (t-minus 20 years to go!).

Buy products, without plastic

  • Have you ever visited the bulk section of your local grocery store? If not, take a peek on your next trip. You’ll find that many items you regularly buy pre-packaged are offered in bulk. This means you get to decide the quantity you take home, purchasing only what you need. Plus, you can help reduce the need for plastic (and other) packaging by bringing reusable containers to fill. You could save money too, since bulk products are often less expensive.
  • If you do decide to buy items from the shelf, seek out products packaged in alternative materials. Sauces in glass jars, eggs without Styrofoam cartons, beverages in aluminum cans and pasta in cardboard boxes are all good options.

Put in place a personal care routine, without plastic

  • Many bath products are sold in plastic bottles. You can ditch those containers by buying shampoo, conditioner and soap in bar form. Bars tend to offer more washes than their bottled counterparts, so you may even save some green while forming greener bath habits.
  • Look for natural alternatives to plastic products. Real loofahs, bamboo toothbrushes and silk floss are great choices.
  • Play the refill game. You can reduce waste in the bathroom by joining a shaving subscription club and buying deodorant sticks that can be refilled.

Be the life of the party, without plastic

  • Instead of solo cups and plastic silverware, try renting items from the Austin Dish Lending Library. If you have access to composting, BPI-certified, compostable items may be a good option for your next party. You may also find it cost-effective to visit thrift stores and put together a set of party dishes to have on hand.
  • As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. Meaning all that glitter donning your favorite party décor is harmful to our environment. The pieces of microplastic that make up glitter can end up in waterways, get ingested by animals and end up in our food system. Alternatively, try paper confetti to add some color and flare to your affair.
  • In addition, wrapping paper made of glitter and other foil materials can't be recycled in Austin. Instead, use cloth, posters or newspaper to wrap your gifts.

Thinking before purchasing is the best way to make a difference in reducing plastic use. When we choose to buy products with reusable materials and packaging, our dollars support businesses that focus on the planet. This new year, let’s take a major step in reducing plastic waste and moving the dial towards Zero Waste.

Road to Zero Waste
Jan 10, 2020 - 12:37 pm CST

pile of electronics to be recycled.

By: Andy Dawson

Each year, Americans throw away 9.4 million tons of electronics! Much of that waste turns up during, and immediately following, the holiday season. Out with the old, in with the new, right?

Electronics don’t seem to last long these days, especially when a new phone with a better camera and newer technology is released every six months. The EPA estimates that 350,000 phones are thrown out each day! Old electronics don’t belong in the trash can. If not disposed of properly, these items can be dangerous. Many contain lithium batteries, which are fragile and can start fires when tossed around in a trash or recycling truck. In addition, most electronics contain toxic chemicals which can seep into our groundwater if placed in the landfill. So, what are the reuse and disposal options for these items?

In Austin, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center accepts most kinds of electronics for recycling. In addition to mobile phones, vacuum cleaners, microwaves, battery backups, televisions and even clothes washers and dryers are accepted here, six days a week, free of charge to Austin residents. More than 539 tons of electronics were collected and recycled at the Drop-off Center in 2019.

Remember, the best practice in the name of Zero Waste is always to use the item for as long as you can. If it’s still in working order but no longer of use to you, donate it. If it doesn't work, drop it off to be recycled.

Road to Zero Waste
Dec 12, 2019 - 01:22 pm CST

The remnants of used gift wrap and ribbons sit under a tree.

By: Bailey Grimmett

Once the holiday hustle and bustle slows down and the presents have been unwrapped, you’re somehow left with a mountain of excess materials such as cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, ribbon and bows, Styrofoam and other packaging materials. You’re not alone! In fact, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases an estimated 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day!  But, did you know that a majority of holiday wrapping material can be recycled and/or repurposed? Check out our list of alternative ways to dispose of excess holiday gifting materials.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam is not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart, but you can take these items to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, where they will be recycled safely and properly. You can also use the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept this material.

Tip: Packing peanuts cannot be recycled at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, but many local mailing centers will accept this material for recycling. 

Cardboard

Cardboard is accepted in your blue recycling cart. Break down and collapse the cardboard before placing the material in your cart.

Wrapping paper/gift wrap

Plain wrapping paper is accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, wrapping paper with glitter or foil is not accepted in your blue recycling cart; consider reusing this material for future gifts or other creative projects. 

Tape left on the wrapping paper can be recycled (but try to use as little as possible while wrapping your gifts!)

Tip: Before purchasing new wrapping paper, consider wrapping your gifts with reusable materials such as newspaper or using reusable gift bags this holiday season.

Ribbon and bows

Ribbon and bows are not accepted in your blue recycling cart. However, these items are the easiest to reuse, so hold onto them and reuse them for future gifting. You can also find local organizations that will accept these materials.

Bubble wrap, plastic wrap and other plastic film

Stretchy, flexible materials such as bubble wrap and plastic are not accepted in your City of Austin blue recycling cart. However, you can take this material to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center; the material must be clean and dry before being dropped off. Additionally, local retailers will accept these items for recycling -- use our handy tool to find a location near you.

Extra Recycling

If you find that your blue recycling cart is overflowing with recyclable materials this holiday season, don’t worry! Place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container next to your cart. If you have excess cardboard, please cut or fold the cardboard into 2 feet by 2 feet piles, and tie them into manageable bundles with string or twine. Place the bundles next to your recycling cart. Extra recyclables will be picked up at no extra change. If you find that you often have extra recycling, you can call 512-494-9400 to request an additional blue cart, free of charge.

Road to Zero Waste
Dec 12, 2019 - 12:21 pm CST

By: Nolan Fleming

The Holidays are in full swing. Along with all the joy and merriment, they can also bring a lot of extra waste! In fact, the United States generates 25 percent more waste during the holiday season. Here are some ways you can put a freeze on the issue and spread some eco-friendly cheer.

Gifts

Think back on the Holidays last year and the gifts you received. How many of those gifts do you actually use to this day? The gifts that stand out to me have always been experiences or a story to share with friends and family. This year, consider giving the gift of a great story that the recipient can tell for years to come.  Plan a local adventure or take a woodworking class together, repair a well-worn favorite sweater or find a gift with its own unique history at an antique store.

Wrapping

Gifts wrapped with reused paper bags

Unfortunately, wrapping paper that has foil or glitter, photo paper and ribbon are not recyclable. Instead, try wrapping your gifts with newspaper, posters, maps, fabric or reuseable gift bags to add a personal touch and avoid the non-recyclables.

Shipping

Now that you have wrapped all these gifts in eco-friendly, reusable materials, it’s time to ship them with that same level of environmental care. Reuse cardboard boxes and other shipping materials. Rather than buying packing peanuts or bubble wrap, try using  balled-up, recyclable paper.

Season’s greetings

Planning to send out holiday cards? Instead of using traditional paper and glitter-embossed cards, try sending out Ecards! They are paperless, interactive and easy to distribute. Plus you save on postage! Repurpose any cards you receive to make gift tags, gift boxes or place settings for holiday meals.

Hosting a holiday feast

Woman sets table for a holiday meal.

When it comes to meals, many of us rely on disposable tableware for the uncharacteristically large number of people that we will be serving. Take the extra time to find reusable dishware by borrowing from a family member or friend, or by visiting your local thrift store. You can also reach out to the Austin Dish Lending Library, a new, local service that loans reusable dishes and silverware to Austin area residents at no cost.

 

Use these tips to make a difference this holiday season by reducing your waste, and your spending. You may even gift yourself a little extra time by not spending it in a crowded department store or post office.

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 14, 2019 - 03:02 pm CST

Cooked turkey gets pulled out of pot after frying

By: Andy Dawson

Many people deep fry turkeys during the holiday season, leaving behind a lot of used cooking oil. But, what do you do with it afterwards? It can actually be dropped off for recycling!

The City of Austin’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center (RRDOC) collects more than 12,000 pounds of cooking oil and grease annually, as part of its household hazardous waste collection program. During and after the holidays, the center sees an influx of people dropping off oil, and it’s not just the normal quart or two. Austinites drop off a few gallons at a time after frying their turkeys.

Once collected at the RRDOC, the oil is poured into a 100-gallon tank. A vendor then picks up the tank and processes the used cooking oil into biodiesel, which is a more safe, biodegradable and clean burning transportation fuel than petroleum-based diesel.

Collecting this oil also keeps it out of water pipes, where it can solidify and develop into fatbergs that clog up Austin’s water lines, resulting in expensive repairs, foul odors and sewer overflows. Fatbergs are made of congealed fats and other non-biodegradable items like “flushable” wet wipes, and are the cause of nearly half of all septic clogs in the United States.

Recycling your cooking oil and grease is just one more way you can help the environment and the City where you live.

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 14, 2019 - 10:57 am CST

Plate with cloth napkin and silverware

By: Bailey Grimmett

Thanksgiving brings together family, friends and communities. It also brings with it a lot of hungry guests, food and place settings. If you are scrambling to find reusable dishware for your holiday hosting, there’s a new service in town that’s here to help.

The Austin Dish Lending Library is a new, local service that provides Austin area residents with reusable alternatives to single-use dishes and utensils. What does that mean? Well, it’s exactly like a library, but instead of books, it’s bowls. With the Dish Lending Library, people can temporarily borrow plates, bowls, cups, silverware and other dishware for an upcoming event, whether it be an office party or at-home Thanksgiving celebration. Not only does using the library save you money (it’s free!), but it also helps keep single-use plastics out of the landfill.

The woman behind the Austin Dish Lending Library is Joanna Tychowski, a local resident with a vision for Austin’s zero waste future. Based on her own experience trying to find reusable dishware for an event, and not wanting to resort to single-use plastics, Joanna was inspired to start the Dish Lending Library this past year, with a goal of encouraging sustainable practices by local residents.

While the library is only a few months old (founded August 2019), it’s starting to get the attention it deserves. “It’s slowly growing,” says Tychowski. “We expect the upcoming holiday months to be a busier period since a lot of food consumption happens during this time.”

Joanna hasn’t been surprised by the high level of participation. “Many Austinites are aware of the City’s zero waste goals, and they use the Dish Lending Library as a way to contribute to that goal.” She’s hopeful that more people will learn about and use the service so that it can expand, and serve even more residents throughout the area.

“My vision is to have several Dish Lending Library branches located in Austin neighborhoods. This will encourage more participation and ensure faster and easier delivery of materials to the customer.”

If you’re hosting a holiday feast (or just an everyday dinner or event), consider utilizing the Austin Dish Lending Library. The process is simple: visit the Dish Lending Library website and submit a borrow request form. From there, you’ll coordinate the drop-off and pick-up details with Joanna, who will work with your schedule and location, and that’s it! You’re ready to serve up some sustenance, sustainably.  

Tip: Before placing your dishware order with the Austin Dish Lending Library, estimate the amount of food you’ll be preparing and serving by using Save the Food’s “Guest-imator.” This food calculator will estimate just how much food you need for an event/party based on size, hunger (how many guests prefer small portions or large portions), food spread and more. Get even more tips for a zero waste holiday in last year’s Thanksgiving blog. Let’s reduce the amount of waste traditionally generated from a hearty Thanksgiving feast and move Austin one step closer to its zero waste goal.

Happy Thanksgiving from Austin Resource Recovery.

Road to Zero Waste
Nov 13, 2019 - 04:04 pm CST

By: Bailey Grimmett

America Recycles Day is a day to pat ourselves on the back for how far we’ve come in recycling efforts, both nationally and locally. But did you know 20 percent of Austin’s recycling is contaminated? Contamination occurs when we put non-recyclable materials or garbage into our recycling carts, which can cause major issues later on at the recycling facility. One of the largest contaminants? “Tanglers.”

Tanglers are items such as plastic bags, trash bags, garden hoses, clothing, rope and other flexible items that can cause problems during the recycling process.

Imagine a large recycling sorting facility (where the items from your blue recycling cart end up). This facility has several large machines that are made up of a series of gears and cogs moving at high speeds, sorting through the materials. When plastic bags, garden hoses, ropes and other tanglers end up in this sorting process, they get wrapped around the gears and cogs of the machine. This leads to delays and even standstills in operations, as employees must now shut down the machinery in order to remove the items. It’s a tangled mess.

You can make a difference. This America Recycles Day, Austin Resource Recovery asks Austinites to Untangle ATX by keeping tanglers out of their blue recycling carts. If you see an item that is made of flexible, stretchy or long material, take a second to ask, “Could this material/item get wrapped around the gears of a machine?” If the answer is yes, don’t put it in your blue recycling cart.

Remember, while these items are not accepted in your blue recycling cart, they might be recyclable in other ways. To find alternative ways to dispose of these items, check out our ‘What Do I Do With’ tool. You can also reach out to us on Facebook or by calling 3-1-1.

rope and other tanglers wrapped around gears at recycling sorting facility


Keep these tanglers out of the blue recycling cart:

Plastic bags, trash bags, plastic film & wrap

Plastic bags and film: keep out of blue cart

What do I do with it?

Some local retailers and stores accept these items for recycling— check our What Do I Do With tool to find a location near you.

Garden hoses

garden hose : keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse or recycling, or place in your trash cart.

 

Strings of lights & electrical cords

string of lights and extension cord: keep out of clue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Drop these items off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center to be recycled or disposed of safely.

 

Clothing & Textiles

clothing and textiles: keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse or drop these items off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center to be recycled.

 

Rope

rope: keep out of blue recycling cart

What do I do with it?

Visit the Austin Reuse Directory to find a local organization that will accept these items for reuse.

 

Road to Zero Waste
Oct 11, 2019 - 02:11 pm CDT

two children are dressed in homemade costumes: a cowboy and a cat.

By: Ashley Pace

Most store-bought Halloween costumes cost $20-$60 per person and are made of cheap polyester materials that are thrown away after a single wear. Instead of going for the quick grab at the party store, consider these eek-o-friendly alternatives to save some green and give those costumes a second life.

  1. Host a costume swap:  Whether in person or online, encourage your friends, family and neighbors to share their previously used Halloween costumes. Some neighborhoods even host community-wide events! Check local libraries, recreation centers or event pages for swaps near you.
  1. Use what you have: Get creative with clothing you already own and will wear again after Halloween is over. Look for inspiration and get crafty to make what you don’t already have. 
  1. New to you: If hosting a swap or DIYing a costume aren’t for you, shop for costumes that are pre-loved. Use the Austin Reuse Directory to look for thrift stores near you or change the condition filter to used on your preferred online shopping platform. A costume doesn't have to be new to be 'new to you.'

Road to Zero Waste