- Austin Resource Recovery has begun providing information to the 250-300 commercial businesses that are 15,000 square feet or larger about complying with new organic waste recycling requirements. Businesses must have a plan by Oct. 1 to begin recycling by Feb. 1, as reported by KXAN.
- In addition to submitting a plan, businesses must also post informational signs in English and Spanish, educate new employees within 30 days and place exterior organics receptacles within 25 feet of refuse containers. Failure to comply could result in fines from the city.
- Restaurants and hotels larger than 5,000 square feet will face the same requirements in Oct. 2017, followed by all remaining food businesses in Oct. 2018.
These requirements are part of Austin's Universal Recycling Ordinance which aims to help the city reach "zero waste" by 2040. A recent study found that 44% of the waste sent to local landfills could be recycled and the city estimates that these requirements on organic waste can divert 63,000 tons of waste from landfills per year.
Following EPA's food waste hierarchy, Austin is encouraging businesses to reduce the amount of organic waste as much as possible. This could involve more strategic ordering, donations to local food banks such as the Central Texas Food Bank or Feeding Texas and sending vegetables or grains to farms for animal feed.
A growing number of major cities have begun implementing similar commercial food waste requirements. While some form of residential collection is still seen as a priority, the amount and type of material created on a commercial level is often more appealing to processors as a way to start local programs. Though as is often the case, these programs are only as good as the employees tasked with carrying them out so this type of educational effort is key.