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Frequently Asked Questions

Brownfields

How does our community benefit from brownfield redevelopment?

Brownfields can be redeveloped into community assets that support the health or character of a neighborhood. Redeveloping brownfields also:

  • Facilitates job growth
  • Stems urban sprawl and reduces development pressure on agricultural lands
  • Avoids costly infrastructure extensions required to serve new greenfield development
  • Protects human health and the environment
  • Spurs additional redevelopment activities
  • Eliminates eyesores and safety hazards
I am concerned about a property. Is it a brownfield site?

Ask yourself: Is the property idle, vacant, or less productive than it ought to be? Does the site have issues with vandalism, broken or boarded up windows or illegal dumping? Could some unseen environmental contamination be contributing to the problem? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the site may be a brownfield property. 

What are examples of brownfields?

Common examples are abandoned gas stations, dry cleaners, industrial properties, strip malls, and commercial properties where chemicals have been used, transported or stored. 

What are the benefits of applying to the City’s Brownfields Program?

The Brownfields Revitalization Program provides several key benefits including:

  • The City of Austin provides free environmental services to entities planning to redevelop or revitalize a property. As long as funding is available, the program may pay the entire cost of an assessment, cleanup planning and cleanup. The City works with its environmental consultants to provide these services, which could save applicants from $5,000 to $75,000 in environmental fees.
  • Your site conditions are better understood. The perception of environmental contamination can be a substantial barrier to site redevelopment. Most lending institutions require a Phase I ESA before property acquisition.
  • Applicants receive reports with a summary of overall site conditions and a discussion of options for next steps. These reports will allow for informed decisions. From this point, it is possible to determine if the property is safe for the intended reuse and, if cleanup is required, what will be the best and most cost-effective remedy.
What is a brownfield site?

The U.S. EPA, with certain legal exclusions and additions, defines the term "Brownfield Site" to mean real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

What is a greenfield site?

Greenfields are areas of land that have not previously been developed, such as woodlands, farmlands, or fields – typically on the outskirts of urban areas. Companies often prefer developing greenfields to avoid the complications involved with brownfields specifically and, in general, with development in urban areas. Extensive development of greenfields particularly combined with underdeveloped brownfields and other infill properties can intensify problems of urban sprawl.

What is a “Phase II” Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)?

A Phase II is a second-stage ESA done to confirm the presence or absence of recognized environmental conditions that may have been identified during the Phase I. The Phase II generally includes the collection and analysis of soil, sediment, groundwater, or surface water samples. The Phase II report often makes recommendations for further assessment or cleanup. 

What is a “Phase I” Environmental Site Assessment?

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is an initial assessment that is usually associated with a property transfer. A Phase I involves a review of ownership records and historical uses of the property, a site visit, and interviews, in order to identify any recognized environmental conditions that could have resulted in potential releases of hazardous substances to the environment. Many lending institutions require these Phase I ESAs to help ensure that they are not financing a contaminated site for which they may be held liable. The industry-accepted procedure for a Phase I ESA is published by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International, and is available at a charge through their website.

Where are brownfields located?

Brownfields are everywhere. They exist in urban, suburban or rural areas, industrial or commercial districts, or adjacent to residential areas.

Who do I call if I have concerns about a property?

Please contact the Brownfields Revitalization Office at (512) 974-6085 or call 3-1-1 to report the property. 

Who is typically involved in brownfield redevelopment?

A variety of public sector organizations may potentially play a role in the course of cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields sites. Not all of these organizations will be involved at every site. Key players include: The City of Austin, citizen and community groups, commercial lenders, technical consultants, local government agencies, developers, local community development corporations and state environmental agencies.

A construction project can have several permits – a separate one for each construction phase or each structure at the same location. Does the ordinance require a separate report for each permit?

The contractor working on a project with several permits has several reporting options. A report is required for each affected permit; however, the contractor can combine information from several affected permits into one report. To do so, the contractor will enter information for all of the permits in one online report.

Does this ordinance require recycling of hazardous materials produced by a project?

The ordinance specifically exempts Special Waste and Hazardous Material, including asbestos-containing material and lead-containing material.  Contractors should ensure those materials are handled in accordance with appropriate local and state regulations.

For projects with multiple permits, some of the permits may be affected and others not, such as permits for less than 5,000 square feet or for demolition. In this case, are reports required for the unaffected permits as well?

Reports are not required for the unaffected permits; however, the contractor may find that including information for the unaffected permits is simpler. This may be the case, for example, when the private hauler’s reports don’t distinguish between debris from affected and unaffected permits. A contractor that reports tons of materials from the entire project should include the permit numbers and floor areas for the unaffected permits in the report as well.

What if less than 50 percent of the construction debris generated by the project is recyclable in the Austin area?

Affected projects that are unable to meet the requirements of the ordinance because of the nature of the debris can request a waiver. In that case, the online report will prompt the contractor to provide the following information:

  • Description of good faith effort to minimize landfilling
  • Reasons why the project didn’t meet 50% diversion

 

What is a “weight ticket summary” or "Qualified Processor report" and who provides them?

Usually, your private haulers will provide summaries of the loads of construction debris removed from the jobsite. These summaries will list for each load of debris the date, ticket number, and weights of material landfilled or diverted from the landfill.

If a Qualified Processor sorted commingled construction debris from the project, the Qualified Processor will provide a summary report of the total tons processed and the facility’s average diversion rate.

If you have weight tickets but no summary, download this spreadsheet and enter the weight ticket information to develop your own summary.

When is the report due for a project with multiple permits?

The report is normally due when a contractor requests the Final Inspection. For projects with multiple permits, a contractor usually requests separate Final Inspections for each permit. In that case, before requesting the first Final Inspection, the contractor should save (but not submit) a report with all the permit numbers. That way, the Report will be due when the contractor requests the Final Inspection for the last permit.

Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

Do you accept tires? Is there a fee?

We accept passenger car tires. Visit austintexas.gov/dropoff for the current fees.

Does it cost anything to drop items off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center?

Most Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center services are free to Austin residents, but some services have a fee. Visit austintexas.gov/dropoff for details about each item type.

What are the substances of potential concern in electronics?

Electronics are complex devices, which are made of a wide variety of materials. Some of the materials, such as lead, nickel, cadmium and mercury, could pose risks to human health or the environment if disposed of incorrectly.

What items are accepted at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center?

Here are the lists of items that are and are not accepted at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center.

Household Hazardous Waste

Accepted Items

  • Cleaning products
  • Automotive fluids and oil filters
  • Paint and thinners
  • Fluorescent light bulbs
  • Batteries (car and household)
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Mercury
  • Aerosol cans
  • Pool chemicals
  • Cooking oil
  • Propane cylinders

Not Accepted

  • Radioactive materials
  • Syringes and medical waste
  • Explosive materials (including ammunition)
  • Any waste generated by a business (businesses in Austin and Travis County can exchange materials with each other through the Austin Materials Marketplace)
     

Electronics and Appliances

Accepted Items

  • Televisions
  • Computers
  • Electronic media, such as CDs (remove and throw away jewel cases), DVDs and floppy disks
  • Printers and fax machines
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • Lawn mowers and weed eaters

Large appliances

  • Washers and dryers
  • Stoves
  • Water heaters
  • Air conditioners
  • Exercise equipment

Small appliances

  • Lamps
  • Microwaves
  • Kitchen appliances

Not Accepted

  • Mattresses
  • Furniture
  • Toilets
  • Non-recyclable trash
     

Other Recyclables

Accepted Items

  • Plastic bags (clean and dry)
  • Plastic film / plastic wrap (clean and dry)
  • Styrofoam (clean and dry -- NO peanuts)
  • Scrap metal

Large hard plastic items

  • Lawn chairs and furniture
  • Playground equipment
  • Children’s pools
  • Pet carriers
  • Trash cans

Single-stream recyclables

  • Cardboard
  • Hard plastic
  • Paper
  • Cans and foil
  • Glass bottles and jars

Not Accepted

  • Mattresses
  • Furniture
  • Toilets
  • Non-recyclable trash
  • Styrofoam Packing Peanuts
What should I do with my computer or cellphone before I drop it off at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center?

Cellphones and computers do not need to be wiped of data before drop-off; they will be stored securely and destroyed. 

What should I do with the batteries that are included with some of my electronics?

You can leave batteries inside your electronics. 

Why should I recycle my electronics?

Electronics are made from valuable resources, such as precious metals, copper and engineered plastics, all of which require considerable energy to process and manufacture. Recycling electronics recovers valuable materials and as a result, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, save energy, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.

Will the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center accept electronics from businesses?

Yes. However, our facilities are only able to accept a certain quantity. Please contact us before dropping off your items. If your items exceed our capabilities, our staff will direct you to another certified to company to recycle your electronics. 

Reducing waste at events

How Do I Calculate The Diversion Rate?

After your event, make sure you collect a breakdown of materials by weight. Simply divide the total weight of recycling and organic materials by the total weight of all materials gathered at your event. You’ll collect a diversion rate (percentage) to see how well you recycled at your event! 

How Many Containers Should I Get For My Event?

The number of containers you need at your event depends on the number of attendees, the amount of waste your event plans to generate and what materials you will decide to collect. When looking for a licensed waste hauler, they may be able to help you determine how many containers you will need. It is recommended to order the same number of each container (landfill trash, recycling, organics) for common collection areas.

What Is Required For My Permit Application?

Each event is required to develop and submit a waste management plan as part of their Austin Center for Events permit application. The plan should include details about access to any on site landfill trash, recycling, and organic diversion. This includes all areas of the event venue, surrounding areas leading to the event, during event setup, and post event cleaning associated with your event. In order to reach Austin’s zero waste goal, we encourage events to provide recycling and organic efforts at your event. 

Which services/haulers does Austin Resource Recovery suggest?

Austin Resource Recovery requires all waste generated at an event to be hauled and disposed of correctly. The City of Austin has a list of licensed haulers that could be found here. For more information, contact the appropriate licensed hauler or contact Keep Austin Beautiful regarding their Container Loan Program.

Residential Recycling Collection

Are there any hard plastic items you can't accept?

We cannot accept:

  • PVC pipe
  • CD/DVD cases (take them to Recycled Reads or throw them in the trash)

Remember to remove all metal components from hard plastics before recycling them.

Can I recycle plastic bags, films and wrappers?

You cannot recycle plastic bags, films and wrappers in your blue cart. We process recyclables at two local recycling processing facilities that use automated systems to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items, like plastic bags, jam the automated machinery.

Take plastic shopping bags to your local grocery stores or to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center to be recycled.

Do I need to prepare items before putting them in the cart?

Rinse recyclables to remove food residue

Dry paper before putting it in your cart

Flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard

Remove any metal components from plastic items.

Note: Do not place recyclables in a plastic bag. Plastic bags are not accepted in our curbside recycling program and contribute to contamination.

How are residents expected to dispose of large rigid plastics that do not fit inside their blue cart?

Austin Resource Recovery curbside customers may continue to set out large rigid plastics during twice-per-year bulk item collection. These items are currently taken to the landfill, but Austin Resource Recovery is exploring ways to recover and recycle these items in the future.

How big is the recycling cart?

96-gallons

How can I conserve water used to rinse recyclables?

One way to use less water is to rinse your recyclables in the water used to clean dishes. Some people even put a pitcher in their bathtub to catch the water from their shower as it heats up.

How can I make recycling at home even easier?
  • Place multiple labeled recycling containers around your home. When the containers are full, empty them into your blue recycling cart.
  • Recycle in every room. Place recycling containers in areas like your bathroom, so you can collect items like toilet and paper towel rolls and shampoo bottles.
  • Get the whole family involved by making recycling a habit. Talk to your  family, friends and roommates about what items can be recycled, what items can’t and how each item should be disposed of in your home. 
How do recycled items become new products?

After collection, recyclables go to two local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to be sorted and prepared for market. Many of these will become the same product in what is known as closed-loop recycling. For example, glass, aluminum, and steel can be used to make new bottles or cans. Many fibers, such as those from cardboard, are used to make new boxes. And most common household items contain some recycled materials. For example, recycled plastics are turned into new bottles, but they can also be made into carpeting, park benches, and fibers for clothing. The Keep America Beautiful website provides more detail about the recycling process.

What are the benefits of recycling?

Recycling keeps reusable items out of the landfills, which in turn offers many benefits:

  • Recycling can save you money – Austin Resource Recovery provides bundled services to manage your trash, recycling and yard trimmings. Costs are based on your trash cart size. Recycling as much as possible may allow you to downsize to a smaller trash cart, which will save you money on your monthly utility bill.

 

  • Recycling saves natural resources – By recycling, we save natural resources from being used to create new products. In addition, creating products from recycled content releases fewer greenhouse gases than mining or harvesting new materials.
  • Recycling saves energy – Recycling saves energy that would otherwise be used to extract, process and transport virgin materials.

 

  • Recycling reduces landfill dependence– Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 to 75 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills reduces the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
     
What are the guidelines for recycling plastics?
  • Remove metal components from plastic items
  • Empty and rinse items before recycling them. 
  • Make sure all items fit inside the blue recycling cart with the lid closed.
  • Only hard plastics are accepted; plastic foam, plastic bags, and plstic wrap are not allowed. 
What can we do as a community to increase our recycling rate?
  • Set out your blue recycling cart every two weeks, even if it’s not full.
  • Never let recyclables go into the trash. Give your trash another life!
  • Become an advocate – encourage your friends, co-workers and neighbors to join the challenge and help our great city live up to its green reputation. You can even become a Zero Waste Block Leader.
What do I do with ___?

Use the What Do I Do With? tool to find out how to dispose of different materials.
 

What do the numbered triangle symbols on plastics mean?

Below is a brief description of the symbols. For more detailed information, visit the resin identification codes page of the American Chemistry Council Web site.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) or (PET): soft drink and water bottles, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, peanut butter and salad dressing containers. It can be recycled into polar fleece clothing, fiber, tote bags, bottles, clothing, furniture, and carpet.
  2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): milk jugs, water and juice containers, liquid detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs. It can be recycled into liquid laundry detergent containers, drainage pipe, oil bottles, recycling bins, benches, pens, doghouses, vitamin bottles, floor tile, picnic tables, lumber, mailbox posts, fencing.
  3. Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC): clear food packaging, shampoo bottles.
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): squeezable bottles (e.g. honey, mustard).
  5. Polypropylene (PP): ketchup bottles, yogurt containers and margarine tubs, medicine bottles.
  6. Polystyrene (PS): aspirin bottles, cups, plates.
  7. Other: Use of this code indicates that the package in question is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin used in combination. Plastics such as three and five gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and ketchup bottles, clear baby food containers.
What happens to my recyclables after they are collected at the curb?

After recyclables are collected, they are transported to two local Materials Recovery Facilities and then are sorted and baled before being sold to manufacturers to create new products.

What happens when we recycle incorrectly?

When incorrect items are recycled it is called contamination. Putting the wrong items in your blue cart can disrupt the recycling process and cause safety hazards.

For example, plastic bags, garden hoses and wire hangers get tangled in machinery and halt production. Broken glass is a safety hazard for collection crews and MRF employees. Plastic foam breaks up during processing and ends up as small pieces contaminating paper, aluminum and other recyclables.

After collection, Austin Resource Recovery staff takes recyclables to two local Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) for processing. The staff at each MRF does their best to sort everything correctly, however  contaminated materials still sometimes find their way through the system, often at the expense of the MRF operator and the City.

What if all my recycling doesn't fit in the cart?

If you cannot fit all of your recyclables in your cart, you may place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container. 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.

To make more room in your cart, crush recyclables like cans, plastic jugs and bottles. Be sure to "break down" or flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard so that it fits more easily into the cart.

If you frequently run out of room in your recycling cart between pickups, you can request an additional blue cart free of charge by calling Austin Energy at 512-494-9400.

What items cannot be recycled in the cart?
  • Plastic bags
  • Garden hoses
  • Styrofoam (cups, egg cartons, take-out containers)
  • Soiled pizza boxes from take-out or delivery services
  • Yard waste/leaves (set out for yard trimmings pick up)
  • Food waste
  • Trash (you may be charged for extra trash if you put trash in your recycling cart)
  • Helium tanks
  • Large metal items such as frying pans and metal pipes
  • Large plastic items (plastics that are gallon-sized or smaller are ok)
  • Wire coat hangers (recycle at your local dry cleaners)

Why we can't take these items

The recycling processing facility uses an automated system to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items will jam the automated machinery.

Who do I call if my house gets missed?

Austin Resource Recovery collects trash from almost 30,000 homes each day. Occasionally, crews miss a house. Sometimes the crews are not able to collect the material safely or a road hazard or blockage may prevent access. If there is a problem with the material that prevents collection, a notice will be left behind to let you know the problem.

If you haven’t received a notice and you placed the material at the curb by 6:30 a.m. on your collection day:

  • Leave the missed items at the curb and call Austin Resource Recovery at 3-1-1.
  • You may contact us by e-mail. Please include your address, a contact number and the items that were missed. We will come by to pick up the missed material as soon as possible.
Why do metal components need to be removed?

Vendors and manufacturers that buy so-called “mixed rigid plastics” prefer to receive plastics without metal components. Plastics that contain metal are considered contaminants and a lower value.

Why do recyclables have to be clean?

Dirty recyclables can contaminate other recyclables. Dirty items do not have as much value as clean recyclables and sometimes cannot be sold to manufacturers to become new products. These items can end up going to the landfill. This leads to higher expenses for the operators of the recycling facilities, as well as the City. Also, recyclables that have food residue on them can cause odors and attract pests in your recycling cart.

Why do the plastics need to fit in resident’s blue recycling cart?

Most of our trucks are equipped with automatic arms that pick up the carts. Our crews can collect materials more safely and efficiently if all the recyclables fit into the cart, preventing drivers from getting out of the truck. If you have items that don’t fit in the cart, either break them down, or set them out during bulk item collection.

Why Single Stream?

Single Stream Recycling allows Austin Resource Recovery customers to mix recyclable paper, plastic, aluminum cans and glass in one bin. This method of curbside recycling is more convenient for residents because it does not requires sorting of items. Other advantages include:

  • Reduced collection costs because collection can be automated, and collection routes can be serviced more efficiently
  • Worker injuries may decrease because single stream means switching from bins to cart-based collection using trucks with automated lifts
  • More paper grades can be collected, including food packaging (boxboard), junk mail, and mixed residential paper

Residential Services

How often is ______ collected?

Recycling - Every other week
Trash - Weekly
Yard trimmings - Weekly
Brush - Twice per year
Bulk - Twice per year

Is it possible to change the size of my trash cart?

Yes! We offer four trash cart sizes; 96-gallon, 64-gallon, 32-gallon and 24-gallon.

My cart wasn't collected. Who do I call?

Call Austin Resource Recovery at 3-1-1. We will come by to pick up the missed material as soon as possible.

What Do I Do With....?

Use the What Do I Do With? app to find out how to dispose of different materials.

What should I do with extra trash?

Extra bags of trash that do not fit in your trash cart with the lid closed must be placed next to the trash cart and tagged with an Extra Trash Sticker, which can be purchased at most local grocery stores for $4+ tax. Extra bags without a sticker will be charge a per-bag fee of $9.60+ tax.

Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO)

18. Can Austin Resource Recovery help properties find the most cost-effective option?

Reducing the size of trash containers, or frequency of trash pick-up, may offset some or all of the costs of adding recycling services. Contact your current service provider to discuss trash, recycling and composting service options. Find a list of licensed service providers here.

22. Where do I find recycling containers for my business or apartment complex?

Office equipment companies, janitorial supply retailers, and home improvement stores offer a variety of recycling containers. Consider standardizing container colors to keep it simple:

  • Black = landfill trash
  • Blue = recycling
  • Green = organics/compost

Austin Resource Recovery can provide businesses with waste assessments, resources, and education.  Site Assessment Visits are complementary and include a starter kit and sample bin types to help jumpstart or expand your recycling program. Contact Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com to schedule a visit.

23. Where can I recycle....?

What Do I Do With... is an A to Z recycling, reusing, and composting guide for City of Austin residential curbside customers. Other Austin residents and businesses can consult Earth911.com for additional resources and information on local recycling and reuse facilities. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Austin Resource Recovery’s Business Outreach Team at CommercialRecycling@austinrecycles.com