The City of Austin requires food-permitted businesses to provide their employees convenient access to diversion options that keep organic material out of the landfill. Organic material can include unused food, food scraps and food-soiled paper. Diversion options can include donating food, feeding animals, composting and/or having food waste reduction program.
Who is responsible?
The business owner and manager are responsible for meeting the City’s organics diversion requirements. Typically, the person who oversees the organics diversion program submits the organics plan.
What do I need to do?
1. Submit an organics plan.
You must submit an organics plan every year, starting October 1. This plan is a report of how the property meets all of the organics diversion requirements. You will need the following items to fill out your organics plan:
- Your food permit number from your permit, previous records or a letter/email from Austin Resource Recovery.
- Information about how and when you educate your employees on your organics diversion program.
- An invoice or contract receipt from your licensed hauler (only if a hauler takes away your organics) with:
- Size and number of organics containers
- Frequency of collection
2. Provide employees access to at least one organic diversion method.
Diversion methods can include:
- Donating food to people.
Donate extra food to food banks, soup kitchens or shelters. Learn how to donate food.
- Feeding animals.
Donate or contract to provide food scraps to local farms.
Compost on-site, take compostable items home for your residential cart or contract with a licensed hauler to collect organics.
- Food waste reduction programs.
Reduce organic waste by making smaller purchases, creating second uses for ingredients, etc.
Organic material can include:
- Extra/unsold food, food scraps (including meat and dairy products), expired food, coffee grounds
- Landscape trimmings and floral décor
- Food-soiled paper or cardboard (including paper napkins, pizza boxes, 100% paper food containers, coffee filters, tea bags)
- BPI-certified compostable items (including bags, utensils, cups and plates that are labeled as “compostable” on the item)
3. Post signs in two languages.
Signs must be:
- Labeled by which materials are accepted in each container (for example, "unused food," "food scraps") or type of organic diversion (for example, “food donation,” “organics,” “compost”).
- On or near all indoor bins and shelves devoted to organic diversion.
- On or near all outdoor organics containers, if you pay for organics services. Contact your licensed hauler if you need stickers or labels for your outdoor containers.
Print free indoor signs for common areas at your business:
- Get free food donation posters in English and Spanish.
- Get free composting posters in English and Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
- Make your own signs by choosing which items are frequently disposed of at your business.
4. Provide education to employees about the organics diversion program.
The education must:
- Show which organic materials (like 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 two languages.
- Be provided within 30 days of hire, each year and when there are program changes.
- Document when you provide educational resources to your employees.
Get free resources to meet this requirement. If your business chooses the following organic diversion methods, complete the steps below and share with your employees:
- Donates food.
- Download and share the food donation brochure.
- Post the food donation sign near all donation work and/or storage areas.
- Reduces food waste.
- Download the food source reduction email/letter and edit it to reflect how your business reduces food waste.
- 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 a sample map.
- Feeds animals.
- Create a custom organics sign of the foods your business feeds animals. Post your custom organics sign near all indoor organics bins.
Document when the education about the business's organic diversion program is provided:
- Download the sample training log to set a regular training schedule and
- Download the sample attendance log or start archiving your educational emails to document attendance.
Check out our commercial organics video playlist to learn more:
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) supports Austin's zero waste goal. The goals of the ordinance are to increase the life of local landfills, reduce harmful environmental impacts, encourage economic development and support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) food recovery hierarchy.
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.