With Natural Disasters Come Massive Wastes

Due to #HurricaneHarvey, Texas communities could face years of cleanup. While recovery will focus on immediate community repair, most cities do not have a plan in place to address recycling and salvaging of valuable materials after a natural disaster.

From toxic chemicals and electronics to materials trashed from gutting homes and businesses for rebuilding efforts, the state's landfills will be taxed with housing massive amounts of incoming wastes at the taxpayer's expense.

Cities need a recovery plan for capturing useable discards that should not be landfilled. While this type of cleanup may not be a priority for some, it is a low-hanging fruit that could be used to reinvigorate local economies and put people back to work.



Photo credit: NewsUnited.com

Photo credit: NewsUnited.com

Article: Austin to Continue Simple Recycling Program Despite Drop in Customers

Textile recycling is a big part of #ZeroWaste and much of that comes from clothing donations to local charities, but the City of #Austin has taken a different approach.

By contracting with Simple Recycling, local residents can now put textiles and home furnishings in special bags for curbside collection. Charities, such as Goodwill, have challenged this city contract and business model claiming their clothing donation stream has been affected.

Despite a major decrease in residential use of the Simple Recycling program since January, the City will continue the contract.


Republic's Telling Infographic on the Hidden Costs of Waste

Republic Services, the well-known, international landfilling and recycling company, has just released a very telling infographic that highlights the costs of wastes for businesses across the country.

Drawing from EPA and nonprofit studies, business owners are:

  • Paying and average of $50 per ton to dump in landfills each year.
  • Spending a combined $165 million in environmental & legal fees annually.
  • Spending a combined 155 years in jail for environmental violations.

But innovative businesses are reaping the rewards of literally following the "3 R's" of waste reduction, reuse, and recycling and experiencing cost savings:

  • On the back end, businesses are prioritizing tighter inventory control so purchasing of unnecessary items is avoided. Also, identifying ways to reuse already purchased goods can give items like office supplies and furniture a 2nd or even 3rd life cycle.
  • On the front end, businesses are understanding that it is imperative to "right-size" containers to maximize dumpster space and optimize the frequency of hauling pickups. It just doesn't make sense to contract for peak services all year if a business can "right-size" a hauling contract and call for extra pickups during peak times of the year, like the holidays.
  • It is estimated that recycling can be up to 40% less expensive than trash hauling, so it's clear that taking a second look into business wastes and diverting as much recycling as possible can have a real effect on the bottom line.
  • Also, many businesses are getting organics, such as excess food and landscape trimmings, out of their dumpsters. Through food purchase reductions, food donations to feed hungry people and animals in our communities, and/or composting organic wastes, business owners can free up about 40% of dumpster space for actual trash that cannot be recycled.

Over the past several decades, the green efforts of businesses and governments have spawned customers who are becoming keenly aware of and demand sustainable practices. Based on the report, 60% of consumers are more likely to shop companies that have a strong environmental track record.

With multiple ways to save money and increase customer loyalty, why would any business continue to trash highly valuable discards that create jobs and boost local economies?

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.

Texas Legislative Overreach Thwarted on Local Pollution Prevention Rights

VICTORY!!!! A controversial bill was killed in the #Texas Legislature that would have removed the rights of local governments to prevent pollution, such as single-use plastic bags. Sixteen municipalities have single-use bag ordinances, including coastal, rural, and suburban areas.

Not only did an unlikely band of allies come together, including ranchers, small business owners, technical experts, and environmentalists, to demonstrate both economic and ecological concerns to state lawmakers, they did so to help local governments maintain local control of local tax dollars addressing local pollution issues.

Robin Schneider of Texas Campaign for the Environment stated, “The public hearing on SB 103 made clear to state lawmakers that this issue is not about environmentalists versus business, but rather a few business lobbyists versus costly and damaging pollution.” 


Austin's Capital Kitchens Uses City Rebate to Boost Clients' Waste Diversion!

Over the past couple of months, our team has been working with Capital Kitchens to not only expand their current recycling program, but to implement a new composting program!

Using the City of #Austin's $1,800 business rebate, the commercial kitchen is now able to offer its 30+ clients, consisting of caterers, food trucks owners, chocolatiers, and others, the opportunity to lessen their environmental impacts through waste diversion from landfills!

We provided a comprehensive on-boarding process through education training and revised the company's contract language to reflect client agreements with the new policies. The program was well received and the clients of Capital Kitchens are excited to now claim #ZeroWaste operations and establish a green marketing edge over their competitors! 

Big thanks to Capital Kitchens owner, Trish Foreman Wesevich, for her long-term vision for sustainability and to ZWS Associate Morgan Whitney for her tireless efforts in helping businesses discover operational efficiencies.

Capital Kitchens owner, Trish Wesevich, makes the site's new composting program official!

Capital Kitchens owner, Trish Wesevich, makes the site's new composting program official!

ZWS Gains Platinum Status Through Austin Green Business Leaders Program

We're excited to announce that Zero Waste Strategies, LLC has passed the rigorous standards of the Austin Green Business Leaders (AGBL) program to once again attain Platinum member status!

By the end of February each year, AGBL candidates submit a free online form ranking their company's performance in multiple sustainability categories, such as Zero Waste, water & energy use, health & wellbeing, transportation, and others.

The City of Austin Office of Sustainability then schedules an appointment for a site visit to verify business claims, which is a chance for entrepreneurs to showcase their efforts in driving the circular economy and achieving a triple bottom line that benefits people, planet, and profit!

There are many benefits to AGBL membership, including Lunch & Learn events, tours of local businesses leading in green operations, annual recognition by the City, and others. Here are 7 more business reasons to join AGBL!


Compliance Deadline: Austin Business Recycling Plan Submission

On February 1st, Austin businesses affected by the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO), including office, multi-family, and industrial buildings, will be required to submit an Annual Diversion Plan.

This yearly plan helps businesses comply with policy requirements and can lessen trash bills through increased recycling. It details a property's on site recycling programs, types of materials diverted from landfills, and staff education efforts being made.

This year, food-permitted businesses of 15,000 sq. ft. or more will need to also submit an Organics Diversion Plan detailing ways food and food scraps are being diverted. With city encouragement, food donations to feed our community are suggested before composting.

The City of Austin Resource Recovery Department offers free assistance for plan(s) submittal to businesses expected to meet these requirements.

$1800 Recycling Rebate for Eligible Austin Businesses!

Did you know the City of Austin offers rebates of up to $1800 for eligible businesses implementing new or expanded recycling and composting programs?

It's true! Businesses within the city limits that are either expanding current programs under the URO or that are not yet affected by this policy can apply to help cover costs! 

Zero Waste Strategies is well-versed in this application process and can help identify your company's eligibility, conduct a required site assessment, and target opportunities for diversion to maximize rebate dollars.

Contact us for more information or if your business is ready to apply!

America Recycles Day is November 15th!

America Recycles Day is November 15th!

November 15th is America Recycles Day and over 67,000 people have taken the pledge to recycle more! There are over 2,100 events organized across the country to educate, organize, and mobilize every day people to take action to recycle! If there's no event in your area, you can work with the group to organize your own!

Either way, more recycling is a positive way to go to clean up our neighborhoods, parks, and waterways. But, let's also remember that the 1st "R" is to REDUCE wastes so it never becomes trash!