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Solid Waste Services to start composting pilot program

Friday, April 16, 2010 by Mark Richardson

The city wants you to compost, and it is willing to throw a little money your way to get you started.

 

The Solid Waste Services Department is challenging its customers to begin composting their organic waste and to reduce the size of their garbage containers. As part of a four-month pilot program that begins on Earth Day (April 22), the city is offering a rebate of 75 percent off the price of a compost bin, with a limit of $75.

 

Rebecca Hays, a planner with SWS, told the Solid Waste Advisory Commission Wednesday night that currently only about 17 percent of the city’s garbage pick-up customers use a 30-gallon container, the smallest one available.

 

“That’s a really low number,” she said. “We hope to increase that by a significant amount. The goal is to get about 500 new 30-gallon customers during the pilot program.”

 

Currently, about 61 percent of SWS customers use the 60-gallon container, and 19 percent use the 90-gallon container. The program is designed to lessen the amount of trash being thrown away – an average of 27 pounds a week per family – by diverting materials to a compost bin.

 

Hays said the program is simple: Customers can become eligible to receive a rebate on the compost bin by simply switching to a 30-gallon bin and taking a city-sponsored course on composting. She said a recent survey of home improvement centers found compost bins available for between $40 and $100.

 

“The city will offer several basic composting classes free of charge at various locations,” Hays said. “The first class will be held at the city’s Green Living Expo on April 24th but we will have others. We plan to go to where the customers are, at places like the Home and Garden Show, farmers markets, and places like that.”

 

Classes will also be offered online, and the city will set up compost demonstration gardens throughout the city as an educational aid. Gardens are planned for the Zilker Botanical Gardens and at the Eastside Memorial Green Tech High School, among other locations.

 

The Green30 Challenge pilot program has an initial budget of about $100,000, with $75,000 of that earmarked for rebates. The rest will go to publicize the program through online, print, and radio advertising, as well as provide information on public access TV and inserts in utility bills.

 

The program received general approval from SWAC members, with Co-Chair Rick Cofer asking if the program was partnering with any local environmental companies to sell the compost bins. Hays replied that local companies had been contacted about the program, but no special arrangements had been made.

 

Hays said the program would be reviewed in September after four months, and it could be extended if it proves to be effective.

 

For more information on the Green30 Challenge, contact composting@ci.austin.tx.us.

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