- Austin, TX construction projects that are larger than 5,000 square feet are now required to recycle or salvage at least half of their scraps, and a similar ordinance will mandate demolition sites to recycle beginning in 2019.
- About 1,500 projects that would now fall under the mandate had generated about 152,000 tons of concrete, metal, lumber and other waste in 2014-2015. This ordinance would divert at least 76,000 tons of those scraps from landfills.
- The city has estimated the ordinance could increase construction costs by 0.1% to 0.2%, and cost the city $140,000 the first year and $185,000 in later years, with the city investing in education and data collection. Companies that do these projects will submit reports on the quantity of materials they recycle or salvage. Companies could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for noncompliance and pay a $500 fine.
The ordinance was put in place to work toward Austin’s goal of diverting 95% of all waste from landfills by 2040; a tall goal considering that 20% of all the city’s waste is from construction and demolition materials. Currently, diversion rates are only 40% among residential customers who receive this curbside service. A report in the summer of 2015 by Austin Resource Recovery revealed that the city won't meet its zero waste goal if that rate continues.
The city does not know how much of the construction waste is voluntarily recycled versus going to landfill, said Gena McKinley, Austin Resource Recovery’s environmental conservation program manager. Therefore, it's hard to say how much work lies ahead.
A 2020 follow up by the city will reveal the outcome of the ordinance and may help determine whether to up the ante by requiring a recycling rate of 75% at that time, to get closer to the pending 95% goal.