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Council votes to bring more businesses under city recycling ordinance

Friday, April 26, 2013 by Michael Kanin

Council members Thursday approved a series of amendments to the city’s Universal Recycling Ordinance. Those changes, known collectively as phase II of the ordinance, bring a host of commercial businesses, including area restaurants, under regulations that will eventually be part of a citywide recycling mandate.


The new rules will also compel restaurants to compost their food waste.


Council action effectively framed future rules discussions without firming up the rules around composting itself. That effort will take place over the next several months in stakeholder meetings, in front of the city’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission, and, eventually back at the City Council.


Ordinance changes set new dates for the inclusion of properties previously not covered by the recycling ordinance. They include Oct. 1, 2015 for all multifamily dwellings that include more than 10 units.


By Oct. 1, 2016, all multifamily dwellings will be covered by the recycling ordinance. That date is also the starting point for all commercial offices and institutions that occupy more than 5,000 square feet of space, as well as food service, retail, and industrial facilities of that size.


The 2016 date will also mark the start of mandated composting for all permitted food service facilities that serve food that is not pre-packaged to begin composting their food waste.


By Oct. 1, 2017 all buildings in Austin will be required to recycle. It will also mark the start of composting for all permit holding food service establishments.


Mayor Lee Leffingwell pointed to a lack of opposition to the changes. “I assume you’ve had a lot of interaction with the restaurant community,” he said. “I assume that since nobody is here to speak against (these changes), you didn’t get any . . . “


Austin Resource Recovery director Bob Gedert took up Leffingwell’s line of discussion. “I would say we had spirited debate on this issue over 20 months with many restaurants and I thank Skeeter Miller of the Texas Restaurant Association…he is in support of this ordinance primarily because we have had a very good interaction and we’ve adapted this ordinance to their needs.”


According to Gedert, as part of that effort, city staff “rolled back” a series of implementation dates to 2016 and 2017. “I would add that the following step after approval of this ordinance, there’s a rules process and we have committed to adapting some of the rules around restaurants,” he said.


Council Member Chris Riley asked Gedert if business owners might see an increase in costs associated with the new composting rules. Gedert told Riley that this is a possibility.


“There may very well be a price impact,” he said. “We’re trying to moderate that price impact. Part of the agreement to roll this back to 2016, 2017 is to work on this issue.


Resource Recovery officials hope to divert 90 percent of the city’s landfill waste by 2040. Gedert says comprehensive recycling and a successful composting program is the key to that goal.

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