Changes May Come to Austin's Construction/Demolition Recycling Ordinance

On Wednesday, May 31st the City of Austin Resource Recovery Department (ARR) called a working group meeting of the Zero Waste Advisory Commission (ZWAC) to address issues around the city's Construction & Demolition (C & D) ordinance and Administrative Rules.

Present were local haulers and processors to provide expertise and insights to the working group members about having to meet ordinance requirements, but perceiving to not have ample opportunity to do so. And, being positioned between a city ordinance that mandates at least 50% recycling at construction, demolition, and renovation sites of 5,000 sq. ft. or more and not having many opportunities to rid a site of the discards properly leaves haulers and General Contractors facing non-compliance.

One of the issues is that some processors won't take C & D materials from 3rd party haulers because of contamination, which affects the quality of the streams and lowers the value of the debris. Some processors have professional agreements with only 2 or 3 trusted haulers that ensure streams are kept clean and capacity constraints don't arise. 

Another issue is that sites that are seeking LEED certification are allowed through those standards to incinerate some materials that cannot be redirected through reuse and recycling and call it diversion instead of disposal. But, the international definition of Zero Waste and the City of Austin Zero Waste Strategic Plan calls for no burning of wastes and labels any burning as disposal, not diversion.

These standards are at odds with each other in addressing highest and best use of materials and the haulers and processors could pay the price if language in the local policy are not addressed.

ARR will call another ZWAC working group meeting soon to get more stakeholders to the table. The city is especially seeking General Contractors who can bring expertise around managing C & D projects and having to comply with the diversion requirements.