May 06, 2021 - 04:31 pm CDT

"Trash truck on fire"

By Ashley Pace:

Every day, nearly 300 trash, recycling and compost trucks hit the streets of Austin to collect the City’s residential waste. While collecting every day, our sanitation workers have seen all sorts of things end up in carts that can cause serious injury to them or anyone around. These items have the potential to spontaneously combust when exposed to high temperatures or can cause severe chemical burns:

  • Live ammunition 
  • charcoal and ashes
  • paints and paint thinner, 
  • petroleum products like gas, diesel, oil, hydraulic fluid, brake fluid or grease rags
  • and pool cleaning chemicals such as chlorine or muriatic acid

If you have live ammunition, please call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000 to be connected to the Austin Police Department for proper disposal options. 

Charcoal and ash should sit overnight or be thoroughly mixed with water until cold. After charcoal or ashes have completely cooled, wrap them in aluminum foil or put them in a metal container like a coffee can before placing them in a plastic bag and putting them in your trash cart. 

Grease or oil-soaked rags should be left to dry outside, either on a line or spread out on the ground for at least 24 hours, then placed in a separate plastic bag and into your trash cart. 

Paints, paint thinners, petroleum products, and pool chemicals should never go in your cart and should be disposed of at the Recycle & Resuse Drop-off Center for recycling. 

If you are unsure of what to do with an item you need to dispose of, use the What do I do with...  tool to find the best options and keep your sanitation workers, family, friends and the planet safe. 

May 06, 2021 - 01:21 pm CDT

 

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin Resource Recovery has a variety of programs and services that help Austin reach zero waste. But did you know that it's also home to the City of Austin Brownfields Revitalization Office? In simple terms, this office works to remove contamination from properties that are being redeveloped in Austin. The type of contamination at these properties could be hazardous substances, pollutants or petroleum. Environmental concerns need to be addressed before redevelopment can begin, which is where the brownfields office comes in.

The Austin Brownfields Office was established in 1998 in order to provide site assessment and cleanup services for distressed properties; ones that are contaminated. Throughout the years, they have partnered with community organizations and local governments to return these properties back to the community as greenspace, commercial, residential or mixed-use development. The brownfields office works to bring these properties back to life so that they can be reused in a safe and healthy way by the community and residents. If you're interested in seeing Austin's brownfields sites check out the brownfields project map.

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May 06, 2021 - 11:12 am CDT

""so fresh and so clean. Green compost cart with garden hose and cleaning supplies."

By: Ashley Pace

Now you can put your food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings in your green composting cart instead of in the trash. Reducing the amount of trash you are generating in your home creates amazing benefits for our community, and the planet, but it can be a dirty job. Here are some tips to help reduce odors, moisture and pests in your green cart.

Use the right bags

"BPI logo"

Regular trash or plastic bags are not compostable and should never be placed in your green cart, but we know that going without any sort of bag can get messy. Look for the BPI-certified logo when shopping for compostable bags online or at your local grocery store. These are the only bags proven to break down completely at an industrial composting facility. Paper bags or lawn-and-leaf bags are also okay for composting.

Freeze the stinky stuff

Most plant-based foods, leaves and paper won’t create much odor between your service days, but meat, bones, fish and dairy can start to get stinky quickly. Keep these items in your freezer until you are ready to set out your green composting cart to cut the stink factor out of the equation.

Set it out every week

Even if you don’t have much in your green cart, it's important to put it out on the curb every week by 6:30 a.m. for collection. Waiting too long can lead to mold, bad smells and pests that you don’t want to deal with.

Keep it clean

Consider placing yard trimmings, newspaper or a pizza box at the bottom of your cart to absorb moisture. If your cart is getting stinky, rinse it with mild soap and water when necessary. (Be sure to pour the dirty water onto the lawn and not down a storm drain.) Sprinkle baking soda inside your green cart to absorb odors and keep it smelling fresh.

The City’s goal is to get to Zero Waste by the year 2040. It’s a big goal, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together. Use our online composting guide for more tips to make composting easier.

Apr 06, 2021 - 04:29 pm CDT

By: Ashley Pace

With April being Earth Month, it is the perfect time to level up your own environmental influencer status and help the City spread the word about our zero waste goal. Here are some simple things you can do: 

1. Set your City of Austin green composting cart to the curb every week.  

It’s time to apply the social pressure. We know that nearly half of what Austinites are sending to the landfill is compostable and, with our current composting set-out numbers averaging only 30 percent, we need help. Behavioral research shows that Austin Resource Recovery customers are more likely to set out their green composting cart if they see their neighbors doing it. Even if you have the only green cart on the block, and it only has a few measly scraps in it, set it out every week. This simple task may be just the nudge needed to get your neighbors to take the step themselves. 

2. Become a Zero Waste Block Leader.  

Join our fellowship of environmentally-minded Austinites and learn how to become a zero-waste guru for your community. We offer in-depth training, access to social media kits and print materials, tours of processing facilities and more. The program allows you to choose your desired level of involvement, while offering support and resources to help you be successful. Our Block Leaders are a vital piece of our strategy to reach zero waste and joining is a great way to get started on your journey to making an epic impact. The next orientation for Zero Waste Block Leaders is April 24.  

3. Follow and share our social content.

If you aren’t a joiner, another way you can help is by simply following our social accounts and sharing the content we post (@AustinRecycles on Facebook). Doing so is a super easy and effective way for us and you to mutually benefit from each other. You get the benefit of daily tips, tricks and environmentally focused content, and we get the benefit of additional reach beyond our own social media following. It’s a win/win. 

You'll be influencing those around you to live a zero waste lifestyle in no time.

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Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

The City’s annual [Re]Verse Pitch competition is over, and the winning ideas are more creative and resourceful than ever! In its sixth year, [Re]Verse Pitch continues to help reduce waste in the business community by connecting local businesses that have unwanted or surplus materials with entrepreneurs who can help find a solution to keep these materials in use and out of our landfill.

This year’s winners, known as Innovation Fellows, will take their business ideas and join a virtual four-month accelerator program, where they will develop their ideas further and present them to a cohort of investors as part of the City’s inaugural Circular Austin showcase this summer.

Here are the ideas we can expect to see at the Circular Austin showcase:

 

Plant Baxter concept by Jordan Smith, Coleman Counihan and Daniel Barrios. Plant Baxter plans to create container gardens using unwanted large plastic sacks from Austin Eastciders and reclaimed wood from the construction industry.

 

DV Designs concept by Vincent Marsella and Deepak Chandra. DV Designs plans to create beverage coasters using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

 

Biochar Filter Socks concept by Petey Peterson and Seth Nyer. Locoal, an existing Austin-area company, plans to create ‘wattle socks,’ which help prevent soil erosion and capture toxins from storm-water runoff, using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery and used wooden pallets.

 

Lola's Classic Babies concept by Lolita Rodriguez and Lucero Valle Archuleta. Lola's Classic Babies, a woman-owned baby brand in Austin, plans to create bow ties using unwanted fabric decorator samples from Austin Creative Reuse.

 

The Innovation Fellows also receive prizes valued up to $8,500, in-kind prizes and more. Congratulations to our [Re]Verse Pitch winners!

Apr 02, 2021 - 10:39 am CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

A new networking series, hosted by the City of Austin, is bringing together businesses from all over Austin with one goal in mind: to reduce waste. The lunchtime networking series invites local, ‘circular’ businesses to connect virtually over good conversation, speaker presentations and dreams of a circular future (which is not far off).

If you've never heard of a circular business, these are the ones reducing waste just by the nature of their business. This can include thrift stores selling secondhand items, repair shops, recyclers, businesses providing sharing services and more. Each of these businesses is either reducing waste throughout their daily operations or providing services that keep you, the customer, from buying newly produced items. 

Circular businesses are part of a growing industry in Austin with a large economic impact, supporting over $1 billion in local economic activity and over 6,300 jobs. The City is offering specialized assistance to promote business growth, job creation and connections within this industry to assist with growth and expansion.

Two such businesses recently connected during the City’s Circular Meet-ups series, and shared their story with us.

Founders Cristina Guerra of Luxe Refill, a sustainable bath and beauty brand, and Yogesh Sharma of Trashless, a zero waste local grocery delivery service, both attended a meet-up in December and happened to cross paths in one of the breakout rooms (networking at work, folks). In the coming weeks, they connected and formed a quick and successful partnership that has tangible results today.

Currently, both businesses have integrated their services online and are renting a shared space to help cut costs, reduce waste and grow their businesses. “The Circular Meet-up was exactly what I needed to make a successful connection, and helped us grow our businesses together,” said Guerra.

We can’t wait to see what their businesses have in store for us.

Join us for our next Circular Meet-Up! Upcoming events will be posted through the City of Austin’s Circular Economy Program.

Mar 11, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

As we enter mid-March and consistently warmer weather is in our near future, you know what time it is for many of us? That’s right! Time to declutter, clean and shake the dust off!

Spring cleaning, or decluttering any time of the year, can be a big overwhelming task. Can I get rid of this or should I save it? Where should all this stuff even go? Will anyone actually use this thing? A few questions we’ve all asked ourselves at some point.


Here are some tips on how to make your spring cleaning a little easier and more zero waste:  

Separate your stuff into different categories

As you go through your closets, drawers, old medicine cabinet and the shed consider where those items you no longer want might end up. Make four separate categories:

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

Have something that’s broken that you actually need? Before you just dump it and replace it with a new one, consider if you can repair it. We have some great Fix-It classes posted online for repairing common household items: guitars, bicycles, and basic sewing. Austin Public Library also has a database of repair guides for: home and furnitureelectronics, instruments, and appliancestextiles and miscellaneous items
 

Give to your local community

Those items you don’t want could be just what someone else needs! Keep in mind all the different options out there for giving your goods. 

  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers if they want anything.

  • Offer the items on a community group like: Buy Nothing, Nextdoor, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or many others. Some items may have a monetary value, others are great to just give away.

  • Donate to your favorite nonprofit or thrift store. Keep in mind different organizations may take different stuff. Arts and crafts materials or items for repurposing could go to a school or a reuse store. Some nonprofits or a local repair center will often take repairable items. Check the organization's website or call to confirm.

  • Request a clothing and housewares curbside collection. Submit a request and our collection partners will pick the items up at your curbside. They even take broken, non-usable items like old electrical cords, small appliances and single shoes for reuse or recycle. It's easy!
     

Learn where it should go

We have a couple different tools to help you find the perfect home for that item you don’t need anymore. Even things you think are waste may be able to be reused or recycled.

  • Search the What do I do with...? tool to find out if your item could be recycled, composted, repurposed, repaired and more!

  • Use the Austin Reuse Directory to search for available outlets for your usable items.
     

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

If all else fails, often the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center can take it. Be sure to check the acceptable materials list. Old cleaning chemicals and paints? Sure! Broken appliances or electronics big and small? You bet! Batteries, lightbulbs, plastic film and even styrofoam? Oh yea! Other hard plastics, broken lawn furniture, kiddie pools, and pet carriers? Bring ‘em on! The center recently reopened after a temporary closure due to COVID-19. Masks and appointments are required.
 

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

We all know what happens once we purge all that old stuff; we often fill up with new. Some things to keep in mind and ask this year before new purchases, once you’ve cleared some space: 

  • Do I really need this item? Will I use it long term?  Will it last? Is it easily repairable if it breaks? 

  • Is this something I won’t use often that I could rent or borrow instead of buying? Check with your communities, make a request in a Rent Anything, Buy Nothing or sharing community group before you make a purchase, especially if it’s for a very specific project or occasion. We all know those scuba flippers, roller skates, puzzles and craft sets start to collect dust after the immediate event or planned activity we needed them for passes us by.  

  • If you do decide it’s worth buying, can you support our circular economy with your purchase? Is this something I can purchase from a reuse or thrift store? Can I buy one made of recycled materials? New doesn’t always mean better. In fact, it is often the items with a great story or history behind them that become long-term keepsakes for many of us. Learn more about how to shop zero waste.


We hope some of these tips and tools help as you dust off the cobwebs and clear the air. Spring is a time for renewal, not just for your closet...but for our planet. Thank you for keeping zero waste and our environment in mind as you declutter your home this year. 

Mar 10, 2021 - 05:06 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas


After a year of homes serving as makeshift classrooms, many parents have exhausted their creativity muscle to keep little ones entertained outside of virtual learning. Not to fear, Austin Resource Recovery is here to help you find ways to engage with your kiddos this spring break. These activities will encourage your kids to close the laptops, pause Netflix and teach zero waste practices, all while offering some hands-on fun!

  • Leaf threading – Spring is a great time to get outside and explore. Venture into the backyard or take a walk around your neighborhood on a scavenger hunt for your supplies. Keep your eyes peeled for twigs, which will act like your “needles,” and colorful, unique fallen leaves. Once you’ve gathered your supplies, tie some jute twine to your “needle” and get threading. This activity encourages hand-eye coordination and motor skills while developing your child’s connection to nature. After you’ve completed your banner of leaves, use them as decoration or hang them from a tree in your yard and watch as their colors change.
     
  • Recycled paper seed balls – If you’re looking to take a break from school but not from education this spring break, consider making seed balls with your kids. You can easily accomplish this DIY with items you already have around the house, including paper (old worksheets, junk mail, etc.), water, a blender, and the pack of seeds you never got around to planting in your garden. The project may even spark conversations about where paper comes from and why it is important to reuse and recycle items. Help them grow as they grow fresh flowers and herbs of their own.
     
  • Paint with nature – Austin weather can be unpredictable, especially during the springtime; if you are stuck inside due to rain over the break, don’t forget about all the fun that can be found in your kitchen cupboards and fridge. Painting is an excellent pastime on a rainy day, and you can create your paints using crushed blueberries on the verge of spoiling or paprika from the pantry. Experimenting with color is a fun art lesson and will result in a masterpiece to help you commemorate the day.

As we continue to socially distance and stay safe at home, there is still so much fun and adventure to be had all around. Happy spring break!

Feb 04, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Austin Resource Recovery drives the launch of a sustainable storage solution for Austin’s most vulnerable population during a global pandemic

By: Ashley Pace, Public Information Specialist Senior

Violet KeepSafe Storage offers a free, safe storage option to Austinites experiencing homelessness as they navigate their way around the community and out of homelessness. The program currently operates out of the former Health South Building on East 12th street, housing hundreds of purple bins with locks to protect important documents, meaningful keepsakes, and bulky personal items like work boots, blankets, winter coats and more. The program lightens the load so that Austinites experiencing homelessness can rest assured that their possessions are safe when they go to interviews, seek out services or go about their daily lives without the burden of carrying around items they don’t need daily.

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) first became involved in City initiatives to provide services designed to end community homelessness through the Office of Design and Delivery pilot of the Violet Bag Program in 2019. The Violet Bag Program provides people experiencing homelessness with access to kiosks loaded with violet trash bags and daily pickup collection to help residents keep their area and the community clean and safe. Presently, the pilot has expanded to 44 kiosks all around Austin, and City staff continue to work to identify areas where additional kiosks may be beneficial.

While this program does not directly contribute to ARR’s mission of providing services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean, ARR Director Ken Snipes learned the importance of prioritizing our most vulnerable population during his former role in Seattle. Amidst a global pandemic, he answered the City’s call to deliver services aimed at ending homelessness in Austin and tasked ARR staff with collaborating with the Office of Design and Delivery, Austin Homeless Advisory Council and members of the Austin design community to launch the program in April 2020.

“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Snipes said. “As I saw during my work in Seattle, and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”

During operational hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. –10 a.m., 3 p.m.–7 p.m.) people experiencing homelessness can access their storage bin by presenting their bin tag, key or other identifying documents to an attendant who delivers the bin to a private area. As the program grows, the City will coordinate with service providers to make case managers available for assistance and guidance to people experiencing homelessness. The program has recently changed hands in management and the Downtown Austin Community Court now operates it. The City also plans to expand the program to include satellite storage locations throughout the City.

Feb 01, 2021 - 04:34 pm CST

Green compost cart with hearts around it

By: Ashley Pace

The final expansion of the City’s Curbside Composting Program is rolling out this month. So now that you either have a green composting cart or soon will, it’s time to talk about why you should use it. Here are three short and simple reasons why you should compost as much as possible:

1. It will save you money

Putting your food scraps and food-soiled paper in your green composting cart means you have less to put in your trash cart each week and you might be able to get a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Customers who currently have the largest trash cart size at 96-gallons could save over $320 a year by downsizing to the smallest, 24-gallon cart. 

2. It saves room in the landfill for actual trash

A recent study shows that 46 percent of what Austinites send to community landfills could have been composted. Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) currently uses the Texas Disposal Systems Landfill for all of ARR’s trash and they are projecting that it will be full in another 13 years. A full landfill means a closed landfill, and a closed landfill means that Austin will have to find a new place to send trash. That could mean Austin needs to find a new place for another landfill or higher transportation costs to ship trash out to existing landfills farther away. 

3. It creates a valuable product

After ARR trucks pick up the compostable material from your green cart, it is taken to an industrial facility where it is turned into nutrient-rich compost. Compost can be used as a chemical-free fertilizer and helps with water retention in soil, creating a healthier environment. When sent to a landfill instead, those same materials don’t turn into anything of value and break down without oxygen, creating harmful greenhouse gases.


Austin's zero waste goal

The City of Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by the year 2040. Getting there will mean all Austinites reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much as possible to make sure we are leaving behind a city and a planet the next generation will be proud to inherit. We have a big goal Austin, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together.

Although having a new service can feel overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. Follow this guide and you will be composting like a pro with your new curbside composting collection service in no time.

May 06, 2021 - 01:21 pm CDT

 

By: Bailey Grimmett

Austin Resource Recovery has a variety of programs and services that help Austin reach zero waste. But did you know that it's also home to the City of Austin Brownfields Revitalization Office? In simple terms, this office works to remove contamination from properties that are being redeveloped in Austin. The type of contamination at these properties could be hazardous substances, pollutants or petroleum. Environmental concerns need to be addressed before redevelopment can begin, which is where the brownfields office comes in.

The Austin Brownfields Office was established in 1998 in order to provide site assessment and cleanup services for distressed properties; ones that are contaminated. Throughout the years, they have partnered with community organizations and local governments to return these properties back to the community as greenspace, commercial, residential or mixed-use development. The brownfields office works to bring these properties back to life so that they can be reused in a safe and healthy way by the community and residents. If you're interested in seeing Austin's brownfields sites check out the brownfields project map.

Tagged:
Road to Zero Waste
May 06, 2021 - 11:12 am CDT

""so fresh and so clean. Green compost cart with garden hose and cleaning supplies."

By: Ashley Pace

Now you can put your food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings in your green composting cart instead of in the trash. Reducing the amount of trash you are generating in your home creates amazing benefits for our community, and the planet, but it can be a dirty job. Here are some tips to help reduce odors, moisture and pests in your green cart.

Use the right bags

"BPI logo"

Regular trash or plastic bags are not compostable and should never be placed in your green cart, but we know that going without any sort of bag can get messy. Look for the BPI-certified logo when shopping for compostable bags online or at your local grocery store. These are the only bags proven to break down completely at an industrial composting facility. Paper bags or lawn-and-leaf bags are also okay for composting.

Freeze the stinky stuff

Most plant-based foods, leaves and paper won’t create much odor between your service days, but meat, bones, fish and dairy can start to get stinky quickly. Keep these items in your freezer until you are ready to set out your green composting cart to cut the stink factor out of the equation.

Set it out every week

Even if you don’t have much in your green cart, it's important to put it out on the curb every week by 6:30 a.m. for collection. Waiting too long can lead to mold, bad smells and pests that you don’t want to deal with.

Keep it clean

Consider placing yard trimmings, newspaper or a pizza box at the bottom of your cart to absorb moisture. If your cart is getting stinky, rinse it with mild soap and water when necessary. (Be sure to pour the dirty water onto the lawn and not down a storm drain.) Sprinkle baking soda inside your green cart to absorb odors and keep it smelling fresh.

The City’s goal is to get to Zero Waste by the year 2040. It’s a big goal, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together. Use our online composting guide for more tips to make composting easier.

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 06, 2021 - 04:29 pm CDT

By: Ashley Pace

With April being Earth Month, it is the perfect time to level up your own environmental influencer status and help the City spread the word about our zero waste goal. Here are some simple things you can do: 

1. Set your City of Austin green composting cart to the curb every week.  

It’s time to apply the social pressure. We know that nearly half of what Austinites are sending to the landfill is compostable and, with our current composting set-out numbers averaging only 30 percent, we need help. Behavioral research shows that Austin Resource Recovery customers are more likely to set out their green composting cart if they see their neighbors doing it. Even if you have the only green cart on the block, and it only has a few measly scraps in it, set it out every week. This simple task may be just the nudge needed to get your neighbors to take the step themselves. 

2. Become a Zero Waste Block Leader.  

Join our fellowship of environmentally-minded Austinites and learn how to become a zero-waste guru for your community. We offer in-depth training, access to social media kits and print materials, tours of processing facilities and more. The program allows you to choose your desired level of involvement, while offering support and resources to help you be successful. Our Block Leaders are a vital piece of our strategy to reach zero waste and joining is a great way to get started on your journey to making an epic impact. The next orientation for Zero Waste Block Leaders is April 24.  

3. Follow and share our social content.

If you aren’t a joiner, another way you can help is by simply following our social accounts and sharing the content we post (@AustinRecycles on Facebook). Doing so is a super easy and effective way for us and you to mutually benefit from each other. You get the benefit of daily tips, tricks and environmentally focused content, and we get the benefit of additional reach beyond our own social media following. It’s a win/win. 

You'll be influencing those around you to live a zero waste lifestyle in no time.

Tagged:
Road to Zero Waste
Apr 05, 2021 - 03:30 pm CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

The City’s annual [Re]Verse Pitch competition is over, and the winning ideas are more creative and resourceful than ever! In its sixth year, [Re]Verse Pitch continues to help reduce waste in the business community by connecting local businesses that have unwanted or surplus materials with entrepreneurs who can help find a solution to keep these materials in use and out of our landfill.

This year’s winners, known as Innovation Fellows, will take their business ideas and join a virtual four-month accelerator program, where they will develop their ideas further and present them to a cohort of investors as part of the City’s inaugural Circular Austin showcase this summer.

Here are the ideas we can expect to see at the Circular Austin showcase:

 

Plant Baxter concept by Jordan Smith, Coleman Counihan and Daniel Barrios. Plant Baxter plans to create container gardens using unwanted large plastic sacks from Austin Eastciders and reclaimed wood from the construction industry.

 

DV Designs concept by Vincent Marsella and Deepak Chandra. DV Designs plans to create beverage coasters using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery.

 

Biochar Filter Socks concept by Petey Peterson and Seth Nyer. Locoal, an existing Austin-area company, plans to create ‘wattle socks,’ which help prevent soil erosion and capture toxins from storm-water runoff, using spent grain from Fierce Whiskers Distillery and used wooden pallets.

 

Lola's Classic Babies concept by Lolita Rodriguez and Lucero Valle Archuleta. Lola's Classic Babies, a woman-owned baby brand in Austin, plans to create bow ties using unwanted fabric decorator samples from Austin Creative Reuse.

 

The Innovation Fellows also receive prizes valued up to $8,500, in-kind prizes and more. Congratulations to our [Re]Verse Pitch winners!

Road to Zero Waste
Apr 02, 2021 - 10:39 am CDT

By: Bailey Grimmett

A new networking series, hosted by the City of Austin, is bringing together businesses from all over Austin with one goal in mind: to reduce waste. The lunchtime networking series invites local, ‘circular’ businesses to connect virtually over good conversation, speaker presentations and dreams of a circular future (which is not far off).

If you've never heard of a circular business, these are the ones reducing waste just by the nature of their business. This can include thrift stores selling secondhand items, repair shops, recyclers, businesses providing sharing services and more. Each of these businesses is either reducing waste throughout their daily operations or providing services that keep you, the customer, from buying newly produced items. 

Circular businesses are part of a growing industry in Austin with a large economic impact, supporting over $1 billion in local economic activity and over 6,300 jobs. The City is offering specialized assistance to promote business growth, job creation and connections within this industry to assist with growth and expansion.

Two such businesses recently connected during the City’s Circular Meet-ups series, and shared their story with us.

Founders Cristina Guerra of Luxe Refill, a sustainable bath and beauty brand, and Yogesh Sharma of Trashless, a zero waste local grocery delivery service, both attended a meet-up in December and happened to cross paths in one of the breakout rooms (networking at work, folks). In the coming weeks, they connected and formed a quick and successful partnership that has tangible results today.

Currently, both businesses have integrated their services online and are renting a shared space to help cut costs, reduce waste and grow their businesses. “The Circular Meet-up was exactly what I needed to make a successful connection, and helped us grow our businesses together,” said Guerra.

We can’t wait to see what their businesses have in store for us.

Join us for our next Circular Meet-Up! Upcoming events will be posted through the City of Austin’s Circular Economy Program.

Road to Zero Waste
Mar 11, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Person holds a box of items to donate

By: Noelle Bugaj

As we enter mid-March and consistently warmer weather is in our near future, you know what time it is for many of us? That’s right! Time to declutter, clean and shake the dust off!

Spring cleaning, or decluttering any time of the year, can be a big overwhelming task. Can I get rid of this or should I save it? Where should all this stuff even go? Will anyone actually use this thing? A few questions we’ve all asked ourselves at some point.


Here are some tips on how to make your spring cleaning a little easier and more zero waste:  

Separate your stuff into different categories

As you go through your closets, drawers, old medicine cabinet and the shed consider where those items you no longer want might end up. Make four separate categories:

  • Usable to donate

  • Broken, but repairable

  • Could be repurposed

  • Probably waste (but may be recyclable)
     

Repair before you replace

Have something that’s broken that you actually need? Before you just dump it and replace it with a new one, consider if you can repair it. We have some great Fix-It classes posted online for repairing common household items: guitars, bicycles, and basic sewing. Austin Public Library also has a database of repair guides for: home and furnitureelectronics, instruments, and appliancestextiles and miscellaneous items
 

Give to your local community

Those items you don’t want could be just what someone else needs! Keep in mind all the different options out there for giving your goods. 

  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers if they want anything.

  • Offer the items on a community group like: Buy Nothing, Nextdoor, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or many others. Some items may have a monetary value, others are great to just give away.

  • Donate to your favorite nonprofit or thrift store. Keep in mind different organizations may take different stuff. Arts and crafts materials or items for repurposing could go to a school or a reuse store. Some nonprofits or a local repair center will often take repairable items. Check the organization's website or call to confirm.

  • Request a clothing and housewares curbside collection. Submit a request and our collection partners will pick the items up at your curbside. They even take broken, non-usable items like old electrical cords, small appliances and single shoes for reuse or recycle. It's easy!
     

Learn where it should go

We have a couple different tools to help you find the perfect home for that item you don’t need anymore. Even things you think are waste may be able to be reused or recycled.

  • Search the What do I do with...? tool to find out if your item could be recycled, composted, repurposed, repaired and more!

  • Use the Austin Reuse Directory to search for available outlets for your usable items.
     

Visit the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

If all else fails, often the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center can take it. Be sure to check the acceptable materials list. Old cleaning chemicals and paints? Sure! Broken appliances or electronics big and small? You bet! Batteries, lightbulbs, plastic film and even styrofoam? Oh yea! Other hard plastics, broken lawn furniture, kiddie pools, and pet carriers? Bring ‘em on! The center recently reopened after a temporary closure due to COVID-19. Masks and appointments are required.
 

Reduce future purchases and consider the share economy

We all know what happens once we purge all that old stuff; we often fill up with new. Some things to keep in mind and ask this year before new purchases, once you’ve cleared some space: 

  • Do I really need this item? Will I use it long term?  Will it last? Is it easily repairable if it breaks? 

  • Is this something I won’t use often that I could rent or borrow instead of buying? Check with your communities, make a request in a Rent Anything, Buy Nothing or sharing community group before you make a purchase, especially if it’s for a very specific project or occasion. We all know those scuba flippers, roller skates, puzzles and craft sets start to collect dust after the immediate event or planned activity we needed them for passes us by.  

  • If you do decide it’s worth buying, can you support our circular economy with your purchase? Is this something I can purchase from a reuse or thrift store? Can I buy one made of recycled materials? New doesn’t always mean better. In fact, it is often the items with a great story or history behind them that become long-term keepsakes for many of us. Learn more about how to shop zero waste.


We hope some of these tips and tools help as you dust off the cobwebs and clear the air. Spring is a time for renewal, not just for your closet...but for our planet. Thank you for keeping zero waste and our environment in mind as you declutter your home this year. 

Road to Zero Waste
Mar 10, 2021 - 05:06 pm CST

Tammie Williamson 

By: Tammie Williamson, Assistant Director
Austin Resource Recovery | City of Austin, Texas


After a year of homes serving as makeshift classrooms, many parents have exhausted their creativity muscle to keep little ones entertained outside of virtual learning. Not to fear, Austin Resource Recovery is here to help you find ways to engage with your kiddos this spring break. These activities will encourage your kids to close the laptops, pause Netflix and teach zero waste practices, all while offering some hands-on fun!

  • Leaf threading – Spring is a great time to get outside and explore. Venture into the backyard or take a walk around your neighborhood on a scavenger hunt for your supplies. Keep your eyes peeled for twigs, which will act like your “needles,” and colorful, unique fallen leaves. Once you’ve gathered your supplies, tie some jute twine to your “needle” and get threading. This activity encourages hand-eye coordination and motor skills while developing your child’s connection to nature. After you’ve completed your banner of leaves, use them as decoration or hang them from a tree in your yard and watch as their colors change.
     
  • Recycled paper seed balls – If you’re looking to take a break from school but not from education this spring break, consider making seed balls with your kids. You can easily accomplish this DIY with items you already have around the house, including paper (old worksheets, junk mail, etc.), water, a blender, and the pack of seeds you never got around to planting in your garden. The project may even spark conversations about where paper comes from and why it is important to reuse and recycle items. Help them grow as they grow fresh flowers and herbs of their own.
     
  • Paint with nature – Austin weather can be unpredictable, especially during the springtime; if you are stuck inside due to rain over the break, don’t forget about all the fun that can be found in your kitchen cupboards and fridge. Painting is an excellent pastime on a rainy day, and you can create your paints using crushed blueberries on the verge of spoiling or paprika from the pantry. Experimenting with color is a fun art lesson and will result in a masterpiece to help you commemorate the day.

As we continue to socially distance and stay safe at home, there is still so much fun and adventure to be had all around. Happy spring break!

Road to Zero Waste
Feb 04, 2021 - 10:09 am CST

Austin Resource Recovery drives the launch of a sustainable storage solution for Austin’s most vulnerable population during a global pandemic

By: Ashley Pace, Public Information Specialist Senior

Violet KeepSafe Storage offers a free, safe storage option to Austinites experiencing homelessness as they navigate their way around the community and out of homelessness. The program currently operates out of the former Health South Building on East 12th street, housing hundreds of purple bins with locks to protect important documents, meaningful keepsakes, and bulky personal items like work boots, blankets, winter coats and more. The program lightens the load so that Austinites experiencing homelessness can rest assured that their possessions are safe when they go to interviews, seek out services or go about their daily lives without the burden of carrying around items they don’t need daily.

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) first became involved in City initiatives to provide services designed to end community homelessness through the Office of Design and Delivery pilot of the Violet Bag Program in 2019. The Violet Bag Program provides people experiencing homelessness with access to kiosks loaded with violet trash bags and daily pickup collection to help residents keep their area and the community clean and safe. Presently, the pilot has expanded to 44 kiosks all around Austin, and City staff continue to work to identify areas where additional kiosks may be beneficial.

While this program does not directly contribute to ARR’s mission of providing services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean, ARR Director Ken Snipes learned the importance of prioritizing our most vulnerable population during his former role in Seattle. Amidst a global pandemic, he answered the City’s call to deliver services aimed at ending homelessness in Austin and tasked ARR staff with collaborating with the Office of Design and Delivery, Austin Homeless Advisory Council and members of the Austin design community to launch the program in April 2020.

“This operation is all about investing in the health and dignity of our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Snipes said. “As I saw during my work in Seattle, and was confirmed here by the Austin Homelessness Advisory Council, offering a storage bin and a lock does more than alleviate physical burden or fear of theft. This service builds trust and lines of communication between our institutions and the people who rely on them to build a better life.”

During operational hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. –10 a.m., 3 p.m.–7 p.m.) people experiencing homelessness can access their storage bin by presenting their bin tag, key or other identifying documents to an attendant who delivers the bin to a private area. As the program grows, the City will coordinate with service providers to make case managers available for assistance and guidance to people experiencing homelessness. The program has recently changed hands in management and the Downtown Austin Community Court now operates it. The City also plans to expand the program to include satellite storage locations throughout the City.

Road to Zero Waste
Feb 01, 2021 - 04:34 pm CST

Green compost cart with hearts around it

By: Ashley Pace

The final expansion of the City’s Curbside Composting Program is rolling out this month. So now that you either have a green composting cart or soon will, it’s time to talk about why you should use it. Here are three short and simple reasons why you should compost as much as possible:

1. It will save you money

Putting your food scraps and food-soiled paper in your green composting cart means you have less to put in your trash cart each week and you might be able to get a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Customers who currently have the largest trash cart size at 96-gallons could save over $320 a year by downsizing to the smallest, 24-gallon cart. 

2. It saves room in the landfill for actual trash

A recent study shows that 46 percent of what Austinites send to community landfills could have been composted. Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) currently uses the Texas Disposal Systems Landfill for all of ARR’s trash and they are projecting that it will be full in another 13 years. A full landfill means a closed landfill, and a closed landfill means that Austin will have to find a new place to send trash. That could mean Austin needs to find a new place for another landfill or higher transportation costs to ship trash out to existing landfills farther away. 

3. It creates a valuable product

After ARR trucks pick up the compostable material from your green cart, it is taken to an industrial facility where it is turned into nutrient-rich compost. Compost can be used as a chemical-free fertilizer and helps with water retention in soil, creating a healthier environment. When sent to a landfill instead, those same materials don’t turn into anything of value and break down without oxygen, creating harmful greenhouse gases.


Austin's zero waste goal

The City of Austin has a goal to reach zero waste by the year 2040. Getting there will mean all Austinites reduce, reuse, recycle and compost as much as possible to make sure we are leaving behind a city and a planet the next generation will be proud to inherit. We have a big goal Austin, but by making small steps in our daily lives, like using your green composting cart, we can get there together.

Although having a new service can feel overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. Follow this guide and you will be composting like a pro with your new curbside composting collection service in no time.

Road to Zero Waste