Austin’s Recycling and Composting Plan Will Cost, but Austin Will Gain

Austin’s recycling and composting plan will cost, but Austin will gain –

Although new recycling and composting ordinance proves expensive for the city, the plan is said to boost economy by bringing new jobs to Austin.

In June of 2014 the Austin City Council approved amendments to the city code regarding the Universal Recycling Ordinance, expanding former recycling requirements of all properties in Austin and requiring permit holders to divert organics (compost) food waste by a set date of Oct 1 2018.

Austin Resource Recovery is hoping that this ordinance will help eliminate the concept of waste by diverting 90 percent of the solid waste sent to landfills and incinerators by 2040.

The URO will affect all Austin restaurants and businesses at different times based on their size. Businesses or restaurants with a square footage over 5,000 square feet will have to comply with the ordinance a year earlier than those that are less than 5,000 square feet.

Members from the Greater Austin Restaurant Association were present at the most recent city council meeting to voice their opinions on the program expansion.

President of the Restaurant Association, Skeeter Miller, plead to have the implementation year moved from 2017 to 2019, because of the pressure the new code would put on restaurants, but had to compromise for the year of 2018.

“I am totally happy with the 2019 timeline,” Miller said. “The 2017 timeline is too early…when doing the pilot program my restaurant had to spend a lot of extra money because the infrastructure of the program wasn’t in place. We will compromise with a 2018 timeline.”

Austin Resource Recovery released a financial impact assessment in April 2013. The report gave a financial forecast of the project based on years ranging from 2017 to 2020. The breakdown among the four years gave a good comparison as to what each implementation date could do financially to restaurants and businesses in Austin.

If the current compromised implementation year of 2018 remains, the following stipulations would have to be met.

With approximately 6,544 food permit holders in Austin, 741 properties would be required to comply with the new recycling and composting rules by Oct.1 of 2016 and the remaining 5,803 properties would be required to comply by Oct. 1 of 2017.

Money-wise, the project isn’t cheap if the plan remains on the 2018 timeline. Right under $1.38 million will be spent by the city of Austin over the proposed three-year phase-in of the plan.

Around $442,000 would be spent on additional Austin Resource Recovery staff that will provide education and technical assistance to owners, property managers and their tenants.

A projected $242,000 will be spent on URO Code Enforcement. This is the money that will be spent making sure the businesses and restaurants comply with the regulations of the policy.

The majority of money spent on the project will lie in the outreach materials and contracts involved in making the ordinance a success. A projected $703,000 will be spent on the contracts made with composting companies such as Texas Disposal Systems and Organics ByGosh! as well as the materials each restaurant will need to carry out the new recycling and composting system.

When compared to the hypothetical 2019 financial report, the 2018 timeline of recycling and composting proves to be less cost effective. Close to $242,000 could be saved if the implementation date was moved from 2018 to 2019, but Andrew Dobbs of the Austin Zero Waste Alliance believes this is insignificant.

“By waiting a whole other year, the city will be losing money,” Dobbs said. With this new policy comes new jobs and new money to the economy of Austin.”

The city of Austin is redeveloping its first eco-industrial park – the Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub. The hub will be located in southeast Austin on portions of the former FM 812 Landfill site. The new hub will host reuse and recycling manufacturing industries using materials generated in the Austin area.

According to Dobbs the industrial cite will host 14 new manufacturing businesses which will create 1250+ new direct jobs and help boost Austin’s economy.

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