In the city of Austin, Texas, an initiative launched early this month is aiming at fighting and counteracting the careless disposing and discarding of organic waste. It is one of several US cities that are partaking in this trend, limiting the amount of organic waste that goes into landfills, in order to limit greenhouse gases like methane to be put into the environment, which are natural side-effects of decomposing organic matter.
A study conducted in 2017 in Austin, Texas, found that upwards of 37% of the waste that Texas’ capital sent to the landfills was organic waste that could have been donated to the ones in need or at least sent to be composted. When light was shed on this issue, it was decided for Austin to commit itself to a Zero Waste Policy by 2040.
One of the provisions to achieve this goal was an ordinance that went into effect in the beginning of the month. This ordinance requires employees of organic material companies, mainly restaurants and retailers, to be provided with “convenient access to methods of keeping food scraps and other organic material out of landfills”and that “bilingual English-Spanish information and education must be provided”. The educational measures are laid-out according to a fact sheet that should be used as a basis of informing the public.
This informational sheet is elaborated on four methods of utilising organic waste which the businesses in the city must adhere to. Firstly, there is feeding the hungry and the people in need. This, as stated by the authorities, is the preferred option as you combat multiple problems at once, eliminating hunger in the streets of Austin while reducing waste.
This step can be achieved by donating the excess food to food banks, soup kitchens or shelters. Secondly there is the option to send at least parts of organic waste to animal shelters as well as regional or communal ranches. This food can then be used to feed the animals, which is in any case better than letting it go to waste. Thirdly, there is the option to compost the organic waste in various composting centres scattered around the city or to have a private service provider come and pick up the organic waste to be then composted on third-party composting sites.
Fourthly, there is a more innovative although less preferred option. This one entails the encouragement of the development of “innovative solutions customised to your business, which diverts organic materials from landfills”.In other terms, if there is a creative solution that wasn’t covered by the aforementioned points, the business is free to employ said method to reduce organic material waste.
The ultimate goal for Austin is to achieve a zero-waste policy by 2040, and they see this as one of the first steps to fulfil their mission. However, Austin is not the only city that took this route, as it joins several US cities and states taking measures to combat food waste and reduce the burden that landfills have on the environment. Namely San Francisco set a goal in 2002 of diverting roughly 75% of their overall waste to either recycling or composting facilities by 2010, to achieve their goal of a zero-waste city by 2020. Eliminating organic and food waste was one of the steps they had to undertake.
In conclusion, we must rethink and restructure what we eat and especially how we treat the created “waste”, as most of it can be utilised by either people in need or composting facilities, reducing the stress on the environment.