Austin City Council will require large residential buildings to offer recycling services

Alyssa Mahoney

The next phase of a recycling ordinance passed by the Austin City Council will require more businesses and multi-family dwellings to offer recycling services.

The Universal Recycling Ordinance, which the council passed in October 2012, will require nearly every commercial and multi-family dwelling to offer recycling services, Lauren Hammond, senior public information specialist for Austin Resource Recovery, said.

“[The ordinance] will help Austin reach its Zero Waste goal to reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill by 90 percent by 2040,” Hammond said. “These requirements help provide everyone in Austin with access to recycling where they live and where they work.”

According to Hammond, multi-family dwellings with 50 units or more and businesses with 75,000 square feet or more will have to offer these recycling services. In total, 680 apartments and 270 commercial office buildings will be affected. 

“The city will not necessarily provide the recycling services,” Hammond said. “These businesses have the option of choosing from a number of private companies.” 

The cost of recycling will differ for different businesses based on the location, type of materials and type of facility or business. Hammond said she hopes potentially decreased costs incurred by landfill disposal fees and frequent trash collections will incentivize businesses to embrace recycling programs.

Chelsea Kneblik, property manager of 21 Rio, said the apartment complex has always offered recycling bins for residents to use. Kneblik said she received information from the city of Austin about the new regulations but has not looked into them more closely. Kneblik said the new regulations increasing the minimum number of materials recycled from three to five will likely not make a huge difference to the complex or its residents.

Hammond said business managers and property owners have been cooperative so far and have already implemented or are working on implementing the ordinance. She said Austin offers free education and outreach, lunch-and-learn sessions and on-site assessment services available to help businesses adopt the measures more efficiently.

Regardless, even though the ordinance mandates recycling become available, residents may not feel they have convenient access to it. Bryan Henson, leasing manager for The Quarters on Campus, said The Quarters has always offered recycling bins on the property. Even so, Leila Ruiz, a Middle Eastern studies sophomore, said that she has been disappointed with the lack of access to recycling at The Quarters at Nueces. Ruiz said she contacted Quarters management in August about offering a recycling service, but her calls were not returned.

“A lot of people want to recycle but because it’s not available, they have to go above and beyond to recycle,” Ruiz said. “Basically, if I want to recycle, I have to let my recyclables accumulate in my room until there are enough to put into big bags … I walk about a quarter of a mile to recycle.”

Correction: In the original version of this article a reporting error was made. The type of multi family dwellings impacted by the ordinance was incorrectly reported as dwellings with 75 units or more, and the type of businesses affected was incorrectly reported as those with 100,000 or more square feet.