2.5 million tons. That’s how much waste was produced in Austin in 2020 — about 2.5 tons per person.
In an effort to mitigate that number, Austin City Council adopted the 2023 Austin Resource Recovery Comprehensive Plan last week, an update to its 2011 Zero Waste goal. Let’s break it down.
What does zero waste mean?
“Zero waste” doesn’t mean producing no trash whatsoever. Rather, it means city systems have the infrastructure so everything eligible for recycling, composting, reuse, repair, or donation can find its place — aka, not in a landfill.
Currently, about 40% of Austin’s waste is diverted from a landfill, but the city aims to bring that number up to 90% by 2040.
What’s stopping us?
Then, there’s the kicker: ARR is responsible for collecting less than 15% of the city’s total waste. This creates several difficulties, including in measuring progress.
So, what’s the plan?
We’re glad you asked. ARR’s 107-page plan outlines dozens of short-term and long-term goals, including:
- Building out infrastructure in areas of need
- Garnering regional support and building partnerships with other nearby cities
- Streamlining enforcement of existing rules and regulations
- Exploring new efforts, like applying fees for contamination, automated street sweeping, and composting at events
How far have we come?
Austin’s recycling levels are now 36% higher than the national average.
The agency’s data also shows that Austinites are producing less waste. In 1994, on average Austinites produced 5.6 pounds of waste per day. By 2010, that number fell to 4.2 pounds, and in 2022, it was 4 pounds even.