A new amendment to Austin's recycling rules will require all multifamily housing facilities in the city to pickup tenants' compost beginning in fall 2024.

What happened

An update to Austin's Universal Recycling Ordinance was approved by City Council members during their Sept. 21 meeting and will become effective next year.

The new mandate will be applied to all multifamily housing in Austin: apartments, condominiums, student housing and assisted living facilities, for example. The move follows an initial city study of the concept conducted between March 2021 and February 2022, and after civic composting services were rolled out for single-family residences.

"This ordinance comes after a long pilot program that spanned the duration of the pandemic," Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis said. "As an apartment dweller myself, I look forward to folks who live in multifamily structures being able to participate in the expansion of the program to help divert organic materials from landfills."

The details

Beginning Oct. 1, 2024, all multifamily properties with five or more units will have to offer residents and employees "convenient access" to a commercial composting service. The new city mandates include:
  • Providing at least 1 gallon of weekly composting capacity per unit on-site
  • Placing a compost collection point within 25 feet of standard landfill trash and recycling containers
  • Requiring properties to collect food scraps, food-soiled paper and other compostable items
  • Requiring properties to offer information to tenants and staff about composting, clearly label all compost containers, and submit an annual composting collection plan
The city is offering up to $3,000 in rebates for affected properties to upgrade or expand their services to meet the new requirements before next year. Applications for that support are due before July 1, 2024.

The big picture

The Universal Recycling Ordinance was established to further the city's zero waste goal of drastically cutting into the city's trash output by 2040. A city-backed study in 2015 found multifamily and commercial properties produce the largest shares of trash in Austin—together, about 85% of the city's total—and more than one-third of that waste is compostable.

“More than half of Austinites live in multifamily communities, but most don’t have access to composting collection services,” Austin Resource Recovery Director Richard McHale said in a statement. “Keeping food scraps and other organic material out of the landfill is important to make the most out of the planet’s finite resources and to help Austin reach its zero waste goal.”