Restaurants in Austin, Texas have revamped operations this week by adopting sustainable measures for food waste. According to a new law, which went into effect on October 1, local eateries must now dispose of waste in a responsible manner as part of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO). The businesses are encouraged to choose from a variety of options, including donating unconsumed goods, sending leftovers to farms or composting organic waste in order to divert trash from landfills. Employees are also being given supplementary training on how to properly handle food waste with care for the environment.
The URO is a major catalyst for Texas’ Zero Waste by 2040 pledge and also includes lateral initiatives to broaden recycling measures and safeguard sustainable economic development.
“The City is committed to helping companies, large and small, find cost-effective solutions and establish diversion programs to ensure food and other organics are put to best use while meeting ordinance requirements,” said Sam Angoori, Interim Director for Austin Resource Recovery. The organization has become a go-to for businesses that need help reshaping their operations to comply with the new food waste regulations.
And the help is certainly needed. According to local government studies, “the [Austin] community needs to divert more than 90 percent of discards from being burned or buried” in order to transform Texas’ zero waste ambitions into a reality. Government research from 2015 reveals that about 37 percent of trash sent to overburdened landfills is actually organic, meaning it could easily be composted and reused to benefit — not harm — the environment.
“When we waste food, we not only add organic materials to landfills (where they generate methane, a powerful global warming pollutant), but we also waste all the water, land, energy, money, labor and other resources that go into growing, processing, distributing and storing that food,” explained Senior Research Specialist Darby Hoover from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Austin joins cities such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco leading the way with food waste redirection programs of their own. San Francisco boasts the top score on the environmental leaderboard by diverting an astounding 80 percent of its total waste from landfills and, most importantly, showing other cities that it can be done. More likely than not, other cities will soon be embracing similar initiatives based on the successes of their pioneering neighbors — something that both people and the environment can be thankful for.
Image via Paweł Czerwiński