City policies for recycling will not alter UT program

Audrey White

A city recycling ordinance won’t require UT to change its recycling program, but University officials said they hope to keep the their program in line with the city’s goals.

The City Council passed the new ordinance Thursday to expand recycling programs in all commercial and housing facilities in Austin, effective October 2012. The new requirements will take effect for buildings with more units first. The ordinance does not apply to UT because it is a state agency. However, residences such as off-campus dorms and apartments will be required to expand the types of materials they recycle and availability of recycling facilities.

“We’ve heard for years that renters have wanted increased recycling,” said Jennifer Herber, a spokeswoman for the Solid Waste Services Department. “[Facilities] should also see a reduction in waste. In the long term, we hope to see a decrease in their costs for garbage/landfill disposal.”

The city only has two staff members who enforce the recycling ordinances on a complaint-related basis, she said. The updated ordinance budgets $300,000 to increase staff and provide related equipment, which accounts for almost half of the $625,000 included in the project’s budget. The money is already accounted for in Solid Waste Service’s budget, so the department will not require additional money.

About 7 percent of the city’s commercial and multi-family units currently have recycling. City regulations require businesses with more than 100 employees and residences with more than 100 units to recycle at least four types of materials, but many housing facilities that serve UT students do not meet that mark.

The 378-unit Castilian does not offer any recycling services because of the cost of doing so, said operations manager Dale Callison.

“I wasn’t aware that there was a city ordinance in place, and they’re not enforcing it,” Callison said.

UT is working to contribute to the city’s Zero Waste Plan, under which the city hopes to divert 90 percent of its waste from landfills to recycling by 2040. Efforts include expanded access to recycling on campus, furniture restoration and reuse and increased educational information, including a new online chart that details exactly what and how students can recycle on campus, said Jeff Basile, the manager of sustainability and recycling for Facilities Services.

Jim Walker, UT director of sustainability, said the University has upgraded its on-campus recycling with new bins and recycling at football games and tailgating events over the past year and a half.

“UT generates a lot of waste and recyclables, and we’re not a small player in the regional waste conversation,” he said. “The city updating its ordinance will put peer pressure on UT that we need to continue working on getting our best infrastructure in place.”

Campus Environmental Center adviser Karen Blaney said she is optimistic that the new ordinance and increased city pressure will encourage off-campus housing facilities to increase their recycling offerings.

“The [environmental center] has had a steady trickle of students come and want to initiate recycling in off-campus dorms, but it’s never gone anywhere,” Blaney said. “I’m optimistic that this will lead to the private dorm and apartment managers changing their procedures, but as the University, that’s all we can do.”