Think before you toss: A guide to recycling, composting and disposing of items in Austin


By 2040 the city of Austin aims to divert 90 percent of material from landfills. This material could be recycled, donated, composted, reused or safely disposed of. Here are the numerous ways in which materials could be discarded or reused. Still confused? Visit to learn more.

Recycling tip #1

Organic material does not biodegrade in a landfill. Organic and compostable material need air, soil and microbes to break down.


Anything that cannot be recycled, reused or composted should be placed in the brown trash carts for weekly pickup. Residents may select the size of their cart from 24 to 96 gallons and pay more for larger carts.


All recyclable materials should be placed in the blue cart for biweekly pickup. Items include glass, certain plastics, metals, cardboard and nonsoiled paper. Items should be rinsed out before being placed in the cart, and residents should not put food waste in the cart to avoid contaminating recyclable products.

Recycling tip #2

Certified Biodegradable Products Institute, or BPI, bags are compostable bags that may be placed in a compost or in the green cart for curbside compost pickup.


Curbside composting will be available to all 200,000 Austin Resource Recovery customers by 2020. Residents may put food scraps; soiled paper products, such as pizza boxes; and yard trimmings into the green compost cart.

Residents without curbside compost pickup may still start a compost at home by placing all food waste and soiled paper in a spot in their yard or in a bin.

A compost pile or bin should comprise one part food waste and grass clippings to three parts paper and yard trimmings. Residents may also earn a $75 rebate at


Residents can donate clothing, toys and household goods to area nonprofits or place the items in a green Simple Recycling bag and place the bags next to the blue recycling cart on pickup day. Through a contract with the city, residents can request additional free bags at or by calling 866-835-5068.

Recycling tip #3

Food-soiled paper products and cardboard, such as pizza boxes, cannot be recycled because grease will contaminate the recycling stream and possibly damage equipment. Pizza boxes may instead be composted.


Residents can drop off hazardous materials at the city’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center at 2514 Business Center Drive, Austin. Do not empty bottles of household cleaners and chemicals but drop off containers with the liquid still inside.

Yard trimmings

All leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste should be placed in paper lawn bags or reusable containers for weekly pickup. Residents with a green compost cart should first fill the green cart and then supplement with bags and containers.

Recycling tip #4

Plastic bags cannot be recycled because they may get caught in the recycling equipment. These bags must be properly discarded at a place that accepts plastic bags, such as through the city or a business.

Regulations for businesses

Creating a diversion

On Oct. 1 the city of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance mandated that all food-permitted businesses, including restaurants, are not allowed to throw away food, food scraps or soiled paper, such as paper towels. The city recommends several ways that restaurants can divert these organic materials from landfills.

Donate to feed the hungry
Donations of extra food may be made to local food banks, soup kitchens or shelters.

Donate to feed animals
Local ranches and farms accept donations of food scraps to feed to animals.

Compost material on-site or contract through a private hauler.

Other means
Businesses may create their own solutions for diverting organic material or contact the city’s business resource team for ideas.

Other ordinance requirements

1. Ensure all employees have access to properly discarded organic materials.

2. Businesses must post informational bilingual signs near their organics collection containers.

3. Once a year business owners must provide bilingual education to employees about the organics diversion. This may be done in a team meeting or via email.

4. A yearly report of how the business is abiding by the organics diversion regulations must be submitted to the city.

Need help?

Businesses that need assistance in complying with the city of Austin’s organics diversion regulations may contact the Austin Resource Recovery Business Outreach Team.




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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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