How much trash does your household produce on a regular basis? My own home used to fill the trash bin as well as have an overflowing recycling bin every single week. However, back in June of 2018, Austin Resource Recovery began the Curbside Composting program in select areas and we were shocked to find how much of our regular output could be redirected to the new green compost bin rather than the trashcan bound for the landfill.
Due to the success of the program, Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) plans to expand Curbside Composting to all their customers by 2020, pending future approval by City Council. According to their website, the program is part of ARR’s City of Austin Zero Waste goal to divert 90 percent of materials from landfills by 2040.
My own experience supports ARR’s claim that close to half of all trash sent to landfills is potentially compostable material. “When buried in a landfill, compostable materials do not break down as they would in nature or in a compost pile. They decompose anaerobically, without oxygen, and in the process become the number one source of human-caused methane released into the atmosphere.” This is a big problem because, as the Wikipedia on methane gas says, “Landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the United States, with municipal solid waste landfills representing 95 percent of this fraction.”
What can I put in my compost bin?
You can put almost all of your food scraps into the compost bin, except for cooking oils and fats. You can even compost items we don’t typically think of as compostable like meat, bones, and food-soiled pizza boxes. Please, just don’t pour your frying grease or your hardened fat from soups and such into the compost as they do not break down in the same manner as other scraps. Oils and fats should be taken to ARR’s drop-off center located at 2514 Business Center Drive Austin, 78744. You are even encouraged to put your lawn waste (ie. leaves, trimmings, and small sticks) into the bin. Larger sticks should be bundled next to the bin in either paper lawn bags or with twine.
How much does the program cost?
The current prices listed by the www.austintexas.gov site are $1 a month but could go as high as $4 by 2020 to help fund the citywide expansion of the initiative. As an ARR utility subscriber, you may not opt-out of the fee however, you can reduce the size of your brown trash bin to one of the smaller, cheaper bins. Our house of four went to the smallest bin offered and we have yet to fill it even halfway since!
How do we keep the compost bin from smelling bad?
There's no reason to have a stinky compost bin! Check out the video above to find tips on how to keep your home and compost bin clean and odor-free. You can purchase inexpensive BPI-certified biodegradable bags at most grocery and home stores in town to help with your countertop compost container. DO NOT PUT PLASTIC BAGS IN YOUR COMPOST BIN. For your exterior bin, line the bottom with leaves or cardboard to absorb moisture or leaks from bags. It can get soupy in there if you let it! Here is a list of stores that carry BPI-certified bags:
Bed Bath & Beyond
Just like with the Energy Star program, Austin remains on the leading edge for sustainability. The compost program has the potential to not only help preserve the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and developmental blight but to also act as a positive example to our surrounding communities. Every step we take leads to a cleaner, more Earth-friendly city which is better for all of us.