- The City Council of Forth Worth, TX approved a new 20-year solid waste management plan that has been in the works for multiple years, as reported by the Star-Telegram. This wide-ranging set of strategies calls for increasing the city's residential diversion rate from an estimated 21% to 30% by 2021. The plan sets eventual targets of 40% and higher for the city's total diversion rate including commercial and industrial sectors.
- Transitioning more residential customers to smaller refuse carts in the city's pay-as-you-throw system and exploring the potential for organics diversion are top items in the plan. This could include a pilot program for curbside organics collection. The plan also calls for looking at ways to encourage more organics diversion in the commercial sector.
- To handle this additional tonnage of organic material, the plan calls for a study to identify city property where a potential, privately-operated composting facility could be built. This facility could accept food scraps, yard waste and biosolids from the city's wastewater treatment facility.
Fort Worth began discussing this plan in 2014 and has been working through the details with assistance from consulting firm Gershman, Brickner & Bratton. Because Fort Worth is one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country — with population expected to pass 1 million between 2025 and 2030 — disposal costs are a growing concern. Capacity projections at the city-owned Southeast Landfill have fluctuated between 20-40 years recently due to a variety of factors. Republic Services is contracted to operate the site through 2033.
The focus on food and yard waste comes in part from a 2014 composition study that found organic material, including paper, made up more than half of what was being thrown away. The city estimates that if an additional quarter of its municipal solid waste was being diverted that could put the current diversion rate closer to 37% without any other changes to the program. The fact that participation in the curbside recycling program is under 70%, with more recyclable metal and plastic going to landfills than being recycled, shows additional opportunity for change. Ensuring that less yard waste is mixed in with bulk collections, a problem experienced in other cities such as Phoenix, is also a priority.
Because Fort Worth controls residential service for single-family households through contracts with Waste Management and Knight Waste Service, it can have more direct effects in that space. Most of the city's collection contracts are set to expire in 2023, providing an opportunity to integrate new services or requirements. Driving change for multi-family and commercial accounts may be more complicated. Like other cities, Fort Worth sees better data collection as an important first step in those areas.
Outside of Austin, communities in Texas aren't often thought of as national leaders for recycling or waste innovation. Texas has a state recycling goal of 40% and is far behind on reaching it. Lower disposal costs and an aversion to state or local mandates are seen as some of the many factors involved. Fort Worth's decision to adopt such a wide-ranging new plan that leaves the door open for higher diversion goals in the future shows that forward-thinking waste strategies are becoming more important for cities of any size in any location.