4 takeaways from study on Austin's recycling behaviors

On Thursday, several people gathered at Austin City Hall for a presentation on recycling put together through a partnership between Austin’s Design, Technology and Innovation Fellows and Austin Resource Recovery, the city department in charge of waste and recycling pickup.

“Understanding Perspectives and Recycling Behaviors of Austin Residents” was the culmination of five months of grassroots research and data gathering on the topic—an effort aimed at better understanding how the city can enhance its recycling behavior among residents while diminishing the carbon footprint. Here are four takeaways:

  1. The city's Zero Waste by 2040 goal has plateaued

In 2011, Austin City Council unanimously adopted the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, which was built to help the city reach the council’s Zero Waste by 2040 goal, or keeping 90 percent of disposed materials out of the landfill. According to Emlea Chanslor, communications director for ARR, progress on that goal has plateaued at roughly 40 percent. However, the city remains aggressive in achieving that goal and has set a short-term milestone of 75 percent by 2020, a figure Chanslor said is achievable.

  1. People’s lives impact their recycling behaviors

During the study, the group interviewed 52 residents across various demographics. The group found that many lifestyle circumstances, including the size of a dwelling unit, number of housemates, economic situation, family size and free time all factor into people’s perception of and willingness to recycle.

  1. The group came up with 8 prototype initiatives to encourage recycling behavior

After the grassroots research, which revealed the various types of behaviors and reasons why residents do or do not recycle, the group came up with 167 concepts and eventually narrowed selections down to eight prototype initiatives to test on public sample groups.

Short-term ideas include: placing stickers on recycling bins that identify households that are “Master Recyclers,”; mass distributing pop-up cardboard recycling bins to the public; creating an “Instant Knowledge App” that allows people to quickly access information on recycling; and a “Digital Community Hub,” which is a dashboard to show people what impact their recycling has on the environment.

Then there are longer-term projects: “Cans for Crops” is a partnership with local farmer markets, food banks and grocery stores to swap recyclables for food for the homeless and low-income population; create a fleet of “Mobile Units” that visit neighborhoods to distribute educational information and supplies; placing “smart” dumpsters throughout the city to communicate information and positive reinforcement. The ultimate project for the group is implementing universal standards throughout the city for recycling, which would create standard colors, imagery and messaging on all bins used for disposing items.

  1. Anyone can sign up to be a test subject for the prototype initiatives

To gauge the success of the aforementioned initiatives, the group needs volunteers to sign up as prototype test subjects.

Anyone interested in participating in the tests can sign up by visiting tinyurl.com/austinprototypes. A disclaimer: Anyone who signs up to be a prototype for the recycling initiatives is automatically signed up to be a prototype in other initiatives coming from the city of Austin’s Innovation Office. However, you are notified beforehand and allowed to decline participation.
By Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


Austin City Council is poised to make a final vote on the land development code rewrite by early April. (CHRISTOPHER NEELY/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Austin’s eight-year effort to rewrite land code advances to final vote with City Council's second-round approval

A majority of Austin City Council voted in favor of the land development code rewrite, setting the stage for a final vote on a project that has exhausted the community for roughly eight years.

Easy Tiger announced Mike Stitt (right) as its news CEO. He will lead the bakery along with founder and head baker David Norman (left). The restaurant will open a location on South Lamar Boulevard in winter 2020. Courtesy Easy Tiger.
Bake shop and beer garden Easy Tiger to open in South Austin

Easy Tiger will open a third location in the former Red's Porch space in South Austin.

A photo of Dripping Springs City Council.
Dripping Springs City Council considers further support for community skate park

Dripping City Council considered a request for the city support fundraising efforts for a community skatepark at a recent meeting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio on Feb. 13. The case is the 15th known COVID-19, commonly referred to in recent weeks as coronavirus, infection in the United States so far. (Courtesy Adobe stock photos)
The first coronavirus case in Texas was just confirmed. Here is what Austinites need to know about the virus

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio this morning, according to a news release from the federal agency.

A photo of a sign reading "Ghost Note Brewing."
Ghost Note Brewing has broken ground in Dripping Springs

A long-planned brewery and taproom is expected to open later this year.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler (center), flanked by Assistant City Manager Christopher Shorter and City Attorney Ann Morgan, listen to public testimony on the land development code rewrite Dec. 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tense land development code debate leaves Austin City Council members concerned over tenor of proceedings

Climate change denial and a sweeping compromise proposal highlighted Austin City Council's debate over long-awaited changes to its land development code.

Work group members—including Geoffrey Burkhart, Texas Indigent Defense Commission executive director; District Attorney Margaret Moore; County Attorney David Escamilla; County Court-at-Law Judge Elisabeth Earle; and Amanda Woog, Texas Fair Defense Project executive director—recommended a series of bond reforms at a Feb. 11 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting. (Courtesy Travis County)
Travis County group urges bond reforms after settlement in Harris County

Work group members recommended a series of bond reforms at a Feb. 11 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

Travis County commissioners approved a request Feb. 11 to decommission 192 jail beds. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County OKs request to decommission 192 jail beds

Travis County commissioners approved a request from the county sheriff to decommission nearly 200 jail beds.

Julie Wheeler is Travis County's intergovernmental relations officer. She replaces Deece Eckstein, who retired in November. Courtesy Travis COunty
Travis County announces new intergovernmental relations officer

Travis County commissioners announced Feb. 11 the hiring of Julie Wheeler as intergovernmental relations officer.

Dell Children's Specialty Pavilion
Dell Children’s Medical Center to spend more than $300 million over next 3 years to expand Mueller campus

The Dell Children’s Medical Center campus in Mueller is set to break ground on an expansion plan following the announcement of significant investment over the next three years.

Austin FC's owners and Yeti's management team announced a partnership Feb. 10 that will make Yeti the official jersey partner of the new Major League Soccer club. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
Yeti will sponsor Austin FC jerseys; designs to be released later in 2020

The team did not disclose terms of the sponsorship deal, but said it was a "multiyear" arrangement.

Back to top