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Austin Launches New Composting Collection Program

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

Nearly half a million dollars: that's how much Austin taxpayers are putting up for Austin's new curbside composting collection program, kicking off this week.

Nearly 8,000 households across five areas of town will take part in the yearlong pilot project. It's a new way to go green for a city that’s no stranger to it, as crews made the rounds Wednesday morning through South Austin in the first pick-up of the Organics Collection Program.

"I'm really excited about it," said Ginger Bingham, a resident of South Austin who received the green bin.  "My bin was almost full."

Bingham got the 96 gallon cart, along with a smaller food waste bin, last week. She and others in the program also received a guide to the how-tos of composting about a month ago.

"It'll cut down on a lot of trash," said Bingham.

That’s the goal behind the program, an expansion of the current yard trimmings program. This new version provides a one-stop bin for yard waste, and now, food waste, which is later recycled, all using current staff and equipment. The cost of the pilot program is just under $500,000, most of it for the carts, much of the rest for marketing.

Staff with Austin Resource Recovery, the agency behind the program, defended the use of money.

"Long term, you try to open up a new landfill nowadays, it's extremely expensive," said Vidal Maldonado, Division Manager of Litter Abatement at Austin Resource Recovery.

Maldonado says keeping trash out of landfills means avoiding spending millions to build new ones, and they'll save on disposal costs. He ballparks they'll keep out an extra 20,000-25,000 tons a year, and at roughly $21 per ton for disposal, it could save the city up to $525,000 per year if those projections hold.

When asked how much the program will save the average citizen in the long run, Maldonado replied,    

"I can't answer that now. The pilot program will answer a lot of those questions."

One question is how much staff and equipment will be needed -- an answer thousands of residents like Bingham taking part in the pilot program will help the city sort out.

"In a city this size anything that can cut down our garbage and landfill I think is a good idea," said Bingham.

An outside company will process the scraps at no cost to the city during the pilot. Maldonado did not have a figure for how much the program would cost if it expands following the pilot period.

By Adam BennettAustin Launches New Composting Collection Program


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