To achieve Austin’s Zero Waste Goal by 2040, the community needs to divert more than 90% of discards from being burned or buried.

In order to measure Austin’s progress towards zero waste, Austin Resource Recovery hired a third-party engineering firm (CB&I) to conduct a comprehensive study of recycling, composting, reduction, donation and other diversion activities at both residences and commercial businesses. View the full 2015 Diversion Report.

What's in our trash?

Study goals Study goals

Comprehensive Inclusive of recycling, composting, reduction, donation, reuse and other diversion activities.
Transparent Conducted by a third-party environmental engineering firm and the backup data is online for public review.
Innovative First study of its kind in Austin, includes best practices from around the United States and establishes a baseline for future studies.
Transferable Other communities can replicate and improve upon Austin's approach.

Key findings Key findings

  • Austin’s 2015 diversion rate is 42%.
  • "More than 80% of materials in the trash could have been recycled or composted."
  • Organic/compostable materials make up about 37% of materials sent to local landfills.
  • Businesses and apartments generated more than 85% of the discards in our community. City-collected materials from single-family homes up to four plexes is less than 15% of the total trash and recycling generated in Austin. 

Methodology Overview Methodology overview

Data Collection

Business Surveys

Lid-lifting observations

Waste sorts

Collected available public data, including hauler tonnage and Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) information.

Surveyed thousands of businesses to learn about current business practices in Austin.

Randomly selected and cataloged over 2,300 dumpsters at Austin businesses.

Random loads of commercial materials were sorted at local landfills and recycling facilities

  Next steps

  • Austin Resource Recovery Staff will review and provide a thorough analysis in late 2016, including policy, program, and study specific recommendations to accelerate zero waste in our community.
  • Continue to support innovative programs for reducing, reusing, recycling and composting material at home and at work.
  • Continue to implement the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) to find cost-effective solutions that result in less waste.

What you can do  What you can do

  • Recycle everywhere you work, live and play.
  • If recycling or composting is NOT visible, tell the manager or customer service staff so they know you want access to recycling and/or composting.
  • If recycling is not available at a commercial property or apartment complex, please call Austin 3-1-1 or 512-974-9727 or email
  • Find more information about recycling and other diversion programs at

References References

Forms used during the study

Diversion calculation files