Austin Recycles—Independent of China

The following information was shared with City of Austin Zero Waste Block Leaders in the February/March 2019 newsletter.

This is long so bear with me. It’s an official response from Austin Resource Recovery/The City of Austin to citizen concerns.

China’s program to stop importing recyclables, “Operation Green Fence,” was formally implemented beginning in 2013 because the materials received such as plastics, scrap metal, paper and cardboard contained too much food, trash and other contaminants. Producers in China were spending money to sort, clean and ultimately landfill a lot of waste that had been mixed-in with the recyclable materials. At the same time, the Chinese government was promising to restrict many of the country’s negative environmental practices. Consequently, China’s decision had long been anticipated by many recycling industry experts—especially here in Austin.

As a result of media attention and yes, a few rumors, we’ve been getting calls here at Austin Resource Recovery about the future of recycling services in our City. Austinites want to know if our residential recycling program is at risk. Our customers have asked if ARR will begin to limit the materials being collected and want to know if recycling services might be eliminated altogether. The quick answer is no, no and no way.

To assure our customers that none of these situations are going to happen, ARR officials met, on multiple occasions, with our two contracted recycling processors, Balcones Resources and Texas Disposal Systems (TDS), to triple check any potential impacts to the City due to China.

Here’s a brief overview of what we know to be true for recycling services in Austin—now and into the future:

  • Balcones Resources and TDS have continued strong, healthy, and positive relationships with their respective contractors for recyclable materials and both have created situations and conditions which have isolated Austin from risk and wild market swings.
  • Both continue to sell 100% of all recyclables coming from City of Austin residents and our Recycle & Reuse Drop Off Center collection program.
  • TDS and Balcones had long-term plans in place way before Green Fence. They achieved this by being appropriately staffed, through advancements in technology and by implementing state of the art facilities and equipment.
  • Check out a video of the Balcones Material Recycling Facility (MRF), where recycling goes when it leaves your curb. Balcones Resources and TDS have committed to invest and remain healthy for future expansion and growth.

A final comment from ARR: “Sometimes we send a trash truck to pick up compostables or recyclables when one or more trucks are out of service, or when customers report their collection missed we’ll send any available truck. We understand this can cause some confusion. Please understand that no matter what the truck looks like, it’s the contents that matter and we do not send your compostables or recyclables to the landfill.”

The comments and discussions on Facebook and Nextdoor from my neighbors and my reporting it to ARR literally resulted in this press release, so you can make a difference in education and awareness. Use your voice!