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Austin introduces innovative organic waste recycling program

| May 28, 2014

It is said that everything is bigger in Texas. If the eco-pioneers in Austin have their way, landfills will be an exception to that rule. Around 14,000 households in Texas’s capital city are participating in an ambitious pilot program that asks everyday citizens to collect their organic waste and haul it out to the curb next to their garbage bins and standard recycling bins.

(If you’re keeping count, that’s THREE rolling bins per household. Let’s hope they have wide driveways.)

That organic waste, such as kitchen food scraps, will be turned into functional compost.

Austin residents From net_efekt.

In Austin, 14,000 households are part of a pilot program that has them separating organic waste from other trash. From net_efekt.

Austin residents can enroll in a free class to teach home composting skills. Classes are available both online and offline, and completion of the class earns residents a $74 rebate toward the purchase of a home composting system.

Austin is serious about this effort. So much so, in fact, that they have a dedicated director of resource recovery. That title belongs to Bob Gedert, who is on a mission to turn the pilot into a citywide program. That means going from 14,000 households to 186,000 households.

It would be no small feat, but Gedert thinks the payoff is worth it. “Waste can be a revenue source,” he says. Indeed, the city of Austin has collected yard clippings for “some time,” and they turn it into a soil amendment called Dillo Dirt. Dillo Dirt racked up more than a quarter million dollars in sales for the fiscal year ending in September 2013.

Hitting pay dirt (pun intended) isn’t the only reason to promote organic waste recycling programs. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans tossed out “more than 36 million tons of food in 2012,” as reported by Stephanie Strom in The New York Times.

That waste takes a toll on the planet, both because of the resources needed to produce the wasted food in the first place, and because food that isn’t disposed of in a recycling-friendly manner simply ends up as part of the landfill problem.

The city of Austin has a lofty goal: eliminate 90 percent of the waste it sends to landfills by 2040. Ninety percent. They’ll need all 186,000 households on board in order to reach that number.

The beauty of the food scrap recycling initiative is that the food scraps are turned into compost, which functions as fertilizer, which nourishes the land that will grow new food. It’s all very full-circle, and it’s an example of recycling at its very best.

Austin is not alone. Organic waste recycling programs are cropping up all over the country. New York City officials recently announced expansion of their organic waste collection to 70,000 households.

Whether the waste is turned into biofuel that can be sold for profit (as it is in New York City) or turned into Dillo Dirt, it’s decidedly better off than in a landfill.

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Category: Blog Landing Page, Recycling programs, Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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