Austin to Go Zero-Waste

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Recently, the City of Austin, Texas, became the only city in the state with a goal to go zero waste.

The Austin City Council approved a resolution to adopt the Zero Waste Strategic Plan, which will serve eliminate trash from area landfills by 2040. Initially proposed and developed in 2005, the initiative has gone through a number of revisions before it reached its final state.

According to the revised plan, “Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.”

The City of Austin’s Zero Waste Plan proposes to:

  • Zero waste systems have a number of ecological, economical and health-oriented benefits. -Ecocycle.orgExpand and improve local and regional reuse, recycling, and composting programs.
  • Adopt new rules and incentives to reward those who embrace the goal of Zero Waste.
  • Develop Green Campuses and Resource Recovery Parks for Zero Waste infrastructure.
  • Advocate for producer and retailer responsibility for product and packaging wastes, and bans on problem materials.
  • Educate and advocate for a Zero Waste agenda as part of climate change and sustainability policies and programs.
  • Involve the community through collaboration and partnerships to achieve Zero Waste.

Where Are They Now?

Austin has a long way to go to reach this goal, as its recycling rate is currently at 30 percent. To help rates improve, the city has already put in place new, 90-gallon recycling carts, which will make bulk recycling easier for citizens.

“It’s really going to take everyone working, whether it’s through their school and starting composting programs at their schools or at their neighborhoods or figuring out how to recycle more at your workplace. There is a role for everyone who wants to get involved,” according to the Central Texas Zero Waste Alliance, a group formed to help the city reach its goal.

Austin is following the example of other eco-minded cities around the country. San Francisco, Calif., for example, is on its way to becoming a zero waste city. The city recycles almost 80 percent of its trash.

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