The City Strives to Compost More

composting dumpster

By: Noelle Bugaj

This year has been big for composting in the City of Austin. This past spring, Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) finalized the rollout of curbside composting collection to all single-family homes that receive their services. Starting with a pilot of 14,000 homes in 2010, this has been no small feat. Simultaneous with the celebrations and hoorays, the City is focused on taking the next steps towards our zero waste goals as ARR rolls out the Community Composting Collection Pilot for multifamily properties.  

Community Composting Collection Pilot   

Initially planned for March of 2020, the Community Composting Collection Pilot had to pause and pivot along with everyone else with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unexpected winter freeze in February 2021, when it was planned to resume. However, ARR was determined to roll out the pilot program and began to onboard the participating multifamily communities in May of 2021, on a rolling basis. Now, in September 2021, all eight participating communities have rolled out services to their residents. 

Over a six-month period, each of these communities will participate in a composting or organics collection program of their choosing, provide feedback to the City, and help to inform future policy discussions for multifamily communities. This pilot will allow the City to better understand the unique challenges faced by residents, haulers, staff and property managers through real-world experience.      

Why is multifamily composting important? 

Single-family residences are just one of many housing types in our community. Multifamily communities include apartments, condos, dormitories, co-ops, assisted living facilities, mobile home parks, home owners associations (HOAs) with private waste services and more. Generally, any community with five units or more is considered multifamily. Though multifamily communities in Austin are not serviced directly by ARR, the City does have a role to play in supporting opportunities for all residents to divert food waste from our landfills. The waste materials generated at these communities are equally as important as any waste generated by single-family homes and commercial businesses in our city.  A 2015 City of Austin commercial and multifamily landfill composition study found that 37% of waste materials in the landfill were compostable. Residents, businesses and the City of Austin must work together to reach our zero waste goal by 2040.  

What can I do to support multifamily composting right now? 

If you want to be involved in helping to move multifamily composting forward in our community, there are a few steps you can take right now. 

Start a multifamily composting program

The City of Austin offers a Zero Waste Business Rebate that includes an option for new composting or organics collection programs at multifamily communities. The rebate covers up to $1800 to start a program.  

Become a Zero Waste Block Leader

Block Leaders are engaged Austin residents who are passionate about sustainability. They offer their time and knowledge, sharing information with their friends, family and neighbors about recycling, composting, repurposing, repairing and zero waste. Sign up to become a Zero Waste Block Leader. 

Collect organics for drop off

Just because a multifamily community may not have a composting collection program, doesn’t mean that compostable waste must end up in the landfill. There are several ways you could start diverting your food waste materials right now:

  • Drop off your food waste at a local farmers market, community garden or a compost facility. Compost Coalition has a map of possible drop-off locations.
  • Try composting at home. A vermicomposting bin or an indoor compost digester are two compost methods that work for small spaces and don’t require a yard.
  • Share a friend's green curbside compost cart. Ask if you can drop off your food waste with a friend who has Austin Resource Recovery’s curbside service. 

Keep an eye out for future updates related to multifamily composting in the City of Austin!