The Universal Recycling Ordinance's (URO) organic diversion requirements support Austin's Zero Waste goal by ensuring that employees of food-permitted businesses have convenient access to landfill diversion methods for organic materials (like food scraps or soiled paper products). The goal of the ordinance is to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts, encourage economic development, and support the Environmental Protections Agency’s (EPA) food recovery hierarchy.

Organic materials may include food waste and other materials that decompose:

  • food scraps
  • paper towels and napkins
  • soiled paper, cardboard or wax board
  • floral décor
  • landscape trimmings

Who is responsible?

The business owner and manager are responsible. Typically, this is the person who manages the contract for trash and recycling services.

What do I need to do?

Submit plan

The person responsible for the trash and recycling must fill out an Organics Diversion Plan every year, beginning October 1. This organics plan is a report of how the property meets organics requirements. Items needed to fill out your plan:

  • service receipts for organics collection or donation (frequency and weight), and
  • a letter or email from Austin Resource Recovery. 

Green button that reads: "submit organics plan"

If you are unable to complete your plan, you will be able to save it and finish later.

If you contract for trash and recycling, you also need to fill out a recycling plan.

What am I reporting and how do I comply?

1. Divert organics

Divert discarded organic material from the landfill. You can decide what methods work for your business. Here are some ways you can divert organic material:

  • Reduce waste: Reduce organic waste by reducing purchasing sizes, making to order, etc.   

  • Donate food to people: Donate extra food to food banks, soup kitchens or shelters. Learn How to Donate Food

  • Donate food to animals: donate food scraps to local farms.

  • Compost: Compost on-site or contract with a private service provider to collect organics. Find a licensed hauler.

  • Create alternative programs: Develop innovative solutions, customized to your business, which divert organic material from landfills.

2. Provide access

Ensure employees have convenient access to methods of keeping organics (like food scraps) out of landfills.

Commercial Food Services Fact Sheet

Download the food-permitted business fact sheet in English or Spanish

3. Provide education  

Provide educational to employees and commercial tenants about the organic diversion program

Education must:

  • Show what organic materials (e.g., unused food, food-soiled paper, etc.) are accepted in indoor bins and outdoor containers;
  • Show employees where all indoor bins and outdoor containers are located;
  • Be provided in print or electronically and written in 2 languages;
  • Be provided within 30 days of hire, each year, and when there are program changes; and
  • Document when you train your employees.

To meet this requirement, all businesses must:

  • Document when the education about the business's organic diversion program is provided.
  • If your business chooses the following organic diversion methods, complete the steps below and share with your employees:
    • Donates food:
    • If your business reduces food waste:
    • If your business composts:
      • Share the compost sign to show them what is compostable.
      • Post the compost sign near all indoor compost bins and outdoor containers.
      • Create a map of your outdoor compost containers. See sample map.
    • If your business feeds animals:
      • Create a custom organics sign of the foods your business feeds animals.
      • Post your custom organics sign near all indoor organics bins.

4. Post signage  

Post informational, bilingual signs on or near organics diversion stations or containers. 

Make your own custom signs:

Image of composting, recycling and trash signs. Click to make your own.

Print free resources:

"Compost poster"

What to compost poster

Thumbnail of Food Waste Reduction signFood waste reduction mini poster

Thumbnail of poster with food
Food reuse mini poster

Thumbnail of poster with food
Food donation mini poster

Violations of the URO (Austin City Code Chapter 15-6) are a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $2,000 per day, per offense. Contact us for free information, guidance and resources: email Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Outreach team or call 512-974-9727.