No More Trash, Just Compost

In my “Reporting Words” class, I was to attend a city council meeting and find a story to investigate and report. After attending my first ever city council meeting, I found this interesting story.

Austin, Texas –

Come 2018 throwing out the scraps will no longer be an option for Austin restaurants.

Austin city council unanimously approved two new rules regarding the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO), requiring all Austin restaurants to begin composting their waste by 2018. The revisions included a change in the composting timeline based on property size to 2018, and amendments were adapted to the administrative rules for the project.

The new composting rules were originally approved to begin in 2017, but the council pushed back the start date to 2020 with a vote last year. A discussion between council members and speakers for and against the ordinance arose at the meeting Thursday on why the composting timeline changed from the original year of 2017 to 2020 and what the reasoning’s were behind this change.

Local Austin business and restaurant owners as well as members of the Austin Zero Waste Alliance presented a case for both sides of the issue.

“A breach of good faith,” is what Andrew Dobbs, director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment and member of AZWA, called the unexpected change in the implementation year from 2017 to 2020 for the composting ordinance in Austin.

The change of the implementation year from 2017 to 2020 was brought to the city’s last month by the Austin restaurant association. Those in support of the composting ordinance simply requested that the city council would make up their mind on a year and stick to it.

When food scraps are put into the landfills it creates the harmful greenhouse gas, methane.

Dobbs plead for the council to see the possibility of increased greenhouse gas as the crisis that it is and for everyone involved to do everything in their power to get the trash out of the landfills as soon as possible.

Unlike Dobbs, others involved in the Austin restaurant business do not feel composting should begin so soon.

The Austin Restaurant Association President Skeeter Miller, has been working in the last four years on this recycling and composting ordinance.

Miller explained that he was “totally happy” with the 2018 timeline rather than the 2017 timeline reasoning that when the restaurants participated in the pilot program four years ago, the infrastructure was not in place for the composting part of the ordinance.

The ‘infrastructure issue’ brought up by Miller was the concern on whether or not Austin had the capacity and correct market for the composting undertaking.

Adam Gregory with Texas Disposal Systems, which provides composting for all AISD schools, explained that their company believes there is enough capacity currently to provide services for the ordinance.

“The capacity exists today,” Dobbs said. “There’s competition in the processing and hauling of compost. It will encourage competition for businesses to set up. This is a huge economic development opportunity for Austin as well as a huge opportunity to take our zero waste goals seriously.”

By the end of the discussion, there was a sense of agreement among those in the meeting that composting ordinance for restaurants was a good idea. The discrepancies were simply about when and how the ordinance would come about.

A soft process of implementation and an intact infrastructure was Miller’s only request if the council were to move the timeline to an earlier date.

Stacy Guidry, a board member of AZWA and entrepreneur in Austin, explained that a compromise of the year 2018 could be made with the restaurant association, but that the 2020 timeline was ultimately “kicking the can down the road.”

With 2018 as the current implementation compromise, Miller’s request for a “soft process” will be answered with a year-long education period for all properties along with a year of practice for the businesses before there are any penalties imposed.

Sources:

  • Andrew Dobbs –
  •  Phone: 512.326.5655
  • Email: dobbs@texasenvironment.org
  • Skeeter Miller –
  • Speaker at City Council Meeting June 12th
  • Adam Gregory – Works for the Texas Disposal Company
  •  Phone: 512.689.8833
  •  Email: agregory@texasdisposal.com
  • Stacy Guidry—a board member of AZWA and entrepreneur in Austin
  •   Speaker at the city council meeting
  • She’s on the board of AZWA and an entrepreneur so she understands the issue from multiple viewpoints
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