***IMPORTANT UPDATE:  The City of Austin has just renewed its Zero Waste Business Rebate for the year.  Qualified business can receive up to $1,800 in reimbursements for expanding their zero waste program (and cover consulting fees to help)! 

City of Austin URO (Universal Recycling Ordinance) 

In order to meet  Austin's Zero Waste Goal of 90% Diversion by 2040, the City of Austin approved and has rolled out the URO (Universal Recycling Ordinance).

Recycling Requirement

By Oct 1, 2017 all commercial and multi-family residences will be required to ensure tenants and employees have access to recycling.  Specific requirements include:

  • Convenient & Capacity 
  • Signage
  • Education
  • File Annual Diversion Plan (Recycle Plan)

Affected Properties

Multi-Family properties:

 Image Source: wwwaustintexas.gov

Image Source: wwwaustintexas.gov

  • Apartments
  • Condominiums
  • Mobile home parks
  • Private funded dorms
  • Assisted living facilities

Commercial properties:

 Image Source:  www.austintexas.gov

Image Source:  www.austintexas.gov

  • Retail
  • Medical facilities
  • Hotels and Motels
  • Religious buildings
  • Commercial office buildings
  • Private educational facilities
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities

Organics Diversion Requirement

 Image Source:  www.austintexas.gov

Image Source:  www.austintexas.gov

By Oct. 1, 2018, all food enterprises* will be required to ensure their employees have convenient access to organics diversion services.

 Image Source: www.epa.gov

Image Source: www.epa.gov

Food service enterprises include:

  • Grocers
  • Farmers’ Markets
  • Food and Beverage Industry (restaurants, bars, catering)

Though composting is one way to divert compostable materials from landfills, there are other ways to divert these materials to higher and better uses (see EPA's Food Hierarchy).



Austin's Zero Waste Goal is to divert 90% of materials from the landfill by 2040 via reuse/reduce/refuse/recycle/rot (compost).  

Is Austin's Zero Waste goal possible?  Yes!  According to a 2015 study that analyzed Austin's residential waste that goes to the landfill, 44% was recyclable and 46% percent was organic/compostable.  This study demonstrates that 90% of what is sent to the landfill can very easily be diverted toward recycling and composting.  Additional materials can be kept from the landfill if we increase our efforts to reduce what we buy and reuse/up-cycle rather than dispose items. 

How are we doing now?  At last check, Austin is at a diversion rate of 40%.  

What's going into the landfill trash that is not supposed to be?:  Two of the big culprits found in the trash that can and should be reduced and recycled are plastic from the bathroom (shampoo bottles, cardboard from toilet paper, etc.) and junk mail.

What is going into recycling that is not supposed to be?:  Approximately 16-18% of what goes into our recycling is not recyclable, and therefore is considered contamination and results in residual waste sent to landfill.  This contamination can also ruin recycling equipment at a MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).  Some main sources of contamination include garden hoses, coat hangers and shredded paper (not bagged).  Contrary to popular belief, when in doubt, it is better to throw it out, rather than contaminate recycling.