The Austin Chronicle

Requiem for Bulk Trash Day

Get used to the pile in your garage – Austin Resource Recovery isn’t rescheduling spring bulk collection pickups

By Kevin Curtin, June 12, 2020, News

I feel sheepish even asking the question, given the COVID-19 pandemic and endemic racial violence by police, but – seriously – what am I gonna do with this broken lawnmower?

Bulk Trash Day – also known by its legal name Residential Bulk Collection – is a momentous occasion in our household. We stack up the old mattresses, the used tires, the homemade Halloween props that've been hanging out since the fall, the speakers, the stinky rugs, and the midcentury chair that we picked from someone else's stack on the last Bulk Trash Day and later realized was extremely uncomfortable. If we don't have the largest BTD pile in our neighborhood, I know we haven't been living our best lives.

For the city's thriftiest, it's a festival of refuse – epitomizing that axiom about how one person's filth is another's wealth ... or however that saying goes. The armchair in my garage office, an angular gray behemoth, was salvaged from a curb collection pile right as a rainstorm blew in and threatened to render it forever musty. When people compliment it, I say: "Thanks. It's a rescue."

The biannual Bulk Collection exists as a gigantic undertaking for the city of Austin's Resource Recovery division (ARR), serving an average of 8,750 residents every week for 22 weeks. That's in addition to 12,730 customers who live on "On Call" routes that are not part of the scheduled service.

Our East Austin neighborhood's spring pickup usually hits at the end of May – not this year. April 20 brought a halt from Bulk Collection, suspended "until further notice." That must be because they didn't want people like me possibly transferring COVID-19 germs by rummaging through neighbors' furniture and appliances.

Wrong. ARR Media Rep Ashley Pace informs me that viral transference on unwanted household items was not considered when the department made the decision to cease bulk collection.

"ARR postponed brush and bulk routes to concentrate resources to collect trash, recycle, and compost," she wrote in an email.

Those bins have indeed been brimming in recent months. For the period of March 24 to May 18, between 2019 and 2020, trash collection has increased 8.8%, recycling jumped 14.13%, and compost is up a staggering 22.50%.

So when will you be able to dispose of that recliner with the peeling fake leather that you posted on Craiglist's free section months ago and not a single person bit? Well, that depends where on the calendar your bulk collection falls – you can look your schedule up at – and when ARR restarts bulk collection.

"We do not have a confirmed date for bulk collections to resume at this time, but are working to resume collections as soon as possible," Pace tells the Chronicle.

Additionally, she says that ARR "is not planning to offer additional pickups for missed spring collections" and that once they have the okay to resume bulk collections "we will proceed with the pre-planned schedule."

That leaves those of us whose pickup date has passed with limited options for our bulk items: disassemble them into tiny pieces and piecemeal them out in the trash bin, find someone who wants them, or pay to have them taken to a dump. Me, I'm just going to learn to love my trash until next spring comes around.

Updated Monday, June 15, 11am:

An Austin Resource Recovery rep says they will resume bulk and large brush collections starting the week of July 6. They have sent out postcards to address customers that are on that week's collection route. You can check if your bulk collection date has passed, or is forthcoming at

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