WANTED: Recycling and Reuse Tenants for Austin, Texas [re]Manufacturing Hub
Closing the Loop, Locally
It seems that Austin, Texas has everything. The best performing economy in the U.S. has been declared the fittest, weirdest, greenest city and the best place for retirees, singles, pets and everything in between. But there is one thing still missing: a closed loop system for the recycled products it is collecting at an increasing rate.
Austin has set a goal to reach zero waste by 2040 and has made economic development a cornerstone of its path to get there. Austin has a robust collection and sorting infrastructure for recycling, with three single-stream Materials Recovery Facilities in the region, an above-average diversion rate and new regulations requiring businesses and apartment complexes to recycle. But the city needs more companies that can remake the recyclables it collects into new products.
To attract these firms, the local government is redeveloping a 100+ acre site into the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub, a home for recycling and reuse manufacturers. By closing the recycling loop in their own region, Austin hopes to create jobs, stimulate the local economy and grow green business opportunities.
The City of Austin is currently inviting manufacturers, incubators and research and development facilities within the reuse and recycling industry to send a letter (by Oct. 19) if they are interested in setting up shop in the new [re]Manufacturing Hub.
"One of the best ways to reach our zero waste goal is to combine recycling with economic development to grow new businesses, expand existing ones, create jobs and divert surplus recyclables from our landfill," said Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery.
The co-location of multiple firms within the recycling and reuse industry will create opportunities for tenants to buy from and supply one another. For example, the Hub opens up the possibility for a recycled plastics processor to have a polymer lumber manufacturer as its neighbor, supplying the end user with recycled plastic resin by sending it to the next lot over.
"To reach zero waste in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, Austin needs companies in our backyard that can reuse and repurpose the materials we collect," said Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery.
The Hub redevelopment is part of the Austin Recycling Economic Development Program, a joint effort by the city's trash and recycling service and its economic development department to drive local recycling markets and create green jobs. A recent study commissioned by the program found that reuse and recycling have an economic impact of $720 million in the Austin region, which has the potential to grow to $1 billion.
Austin's efforts are part of a growing global movement recognizing the economic value in repurposing waste instead of disposing of it in landfills or incinerators. A study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that transitioning to a circular economy could generate $1 trillion for the global economy. Other U.S. municipalities such as the City of Phoenix and Alachua County, Florida are also investing in campuses for reuse and recycling firms, slated to become descendants of the well-established Edmonton Waste Management Centre in Alberta, Canada which pioneered the concept in North America.
"To remain the best performing economy in the U.S., Austin is always looking to the future. Tomorrow’s economy will be founded on more efficient and sustainable use of our resources," said Kevin Johns, director of the Economic Development Department. "That’s why we have joined forces with Austin Resource Recovery to bring about this innovative project and support manufacturers that reuse, repurpose, or recycle. I invite all businesses in this sector to consider calling the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub home."