The Liberator

Austin Commits to Zero Waste

Sophia Blaha, Staff Writer

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Austin is one of 13 US cities committed to Zero Waste by 2040. In 2005, Austin signed on to the U.N. Urban Environmental Accords. This means that the city is bound to a 21 step process to reduce waste in the city. The goal of these accords is to achieve sustainability and to protect the world’s ecosystems. As of 2015, 42 percent of Austin’s waste is diverted somewhere other than the landfill and there are many programs in place to increase this rate. The city has a goal for a 90 percent diversion rate by 2040.

Zero Waste is all about minimizing waste, maximizing recycling or diversion, getting the highest and best use out of materials, and emulating natural processes.” said Waste Diversion Planner Tom Gleason.

Austin has instituted programs such as the Universal Recycling Ordinance, Curbside Compost, and Zero Waste Rebate. These programs help to increase the efficiency of the Austin waste system and make the city much greener.

“Composting is really natural and good for the environment,”said Sophomore Reha Kakkar, “It’s a good way to perpetuate the circle of life.”

Composting takes the biodegradable and organic materials households would normally waste and turns them into fertilizer and natural products. There are many benefits of composting, beyond simply more efficient waste management. With the Zero Waste program, Austin continues to expand their composting program. So far the city’s Resource Recovery department has compost carts at 38,000 homes and hopes to reach 200,000 homes in the next couple of years. Landfills can cover up to 700 acres of land. With composting and recycling programs, these plots can be much smaller and more condensed. This allows for more land to be used to promote infrastructure and stimulate the economy.

When organic matter is put into the landfill, it breaks down and generates methane gas. This is much more potent than carbon dioxide, and so while it’s not as abundant as CO2, it still has a disastrous effect on the environment. Composting stops this process from taking place and organic materials break down naturally. Rather than adding organic materials to a landfill where they harm the environment and the ecosystem, composting does not produce harmful chemicals. After composting, the city will be able to reuse biodegradable materials to support plant growth or sell to local companies.

“Austin Resource Recovery trucks pick up compostable material from approximately 47,000 homes in the City of Austin currently and bring the material to our site for processing.” said Noelle Bugaj, Organics “By Gosh” Recycling Accountant Specialist.

The city has contracted commercial compost facility, Organics “By Gosh” to take in and process waste and sell it as compost to residential and commercial customers.

“If everybody did their part, I feel like we could make a big difference” said Kakkar

The Zero Waste Program hopes to get the entire city composting, both individual homes and Austin based companies or restaurants.

“The soil is the skin of our planet, one teaspoon of soil contains more living organisms than there are people on the planet” said Bugaj.

Burgaj expresses how important a clean environment is, and how composting can attribute to a better and more sustainable world.

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Austin Commits to Zero Waste