Zero Waste by 2040: A Recommendation Sneak Peek

What the consultants have to say

"My life is garbage, but now I'm in recovery," began Rick Anthony, one of two zero-waste plan consultants recently hired by the city of Austin. He was addressing a packed house at an introductory public meeting last Wednes­day hosted by the city's Solid Waste Advis­ory Commission. Anthony and his partner, Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates, will shepherd the city's progress toward its ambitious zero waste by 2040 goal, working with city staff and the public to assemble a zero-waste plan over the next four months. Zero-waste planning prioritizes the reduction and reuse of waste and looks to recycling and composting as a last resort, Liss said. To keep from getting laughed out of the room, Liss quipped, "We say, 'zero waste or darn close to it,'" explaining that a business or locality diverting 90% or more of its waste from landfills is considered to be achieving zero waste.

Here's a sneak peek at some of the team's near-term recommendations, which Liss emphasized are subject to change based on further input from the public and the city:

Expand the 1998 Commercial Recycling Ordinance to include all businesses and apartments, and strengthen its goals (with an emphasis on getting organics and construction and demolition debris out of landfills).

Develop policies and programs to support reuse businesses and nonprofits in Austin, like Habitat for Humanity's ReStore, Goodwill, and thrift stores such as the clusters on Burnet Road and South Congress.

Support expansion of recycling and composting facilities, including more reuse and recycling capacity for deconstruction, remodeling, construction, and demolition activities, and more composting capacity for both residents and businesses.

Identify zero-waste businesses that divert more than 90% of their waste, develop education and training programs to learn from those successes, and focus on how best to engage other businesses.

The duo also discussed the waste reduction and economic development potential of Resource Recovery Parks, described by the EPA as the "co-location of reuse, recycling, and compost processing with manufacturing and retail businesses in a central facility to which the public can bring all their wastes and recoverable materials, recover some value from their discards, and buy other items at bargain prices." The plan could include one or more local parks.

Opportunities to participate in the zero-waste planning process are coming up. Attend one of three public meetings scheduled each month beginning in Feb­ru­ary; see www.ci.austin.tx.us/sws/zerowaste.htm for meeting locations and times.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

zero waste goal, zero-waste goal, Rick Anthony, Solid Waste Advisory Commission, Gary Liss

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