This report covers Austin Resource Recovery activity in the City of Austin fiscal year 2021, which includes October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

Director's message

Director Ken Snipes
Austin Resource Recovery
City of Austin

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean.
Downtown Austin, TX with a river view
Zero waste ATX


To be a national zero waste leader in the transformation from traditional waste collection to sustainable resource recovery.


Achieving zero waste by providing excellent customer services that promote waste reduction, increase resource recovery and support the City of Austin’s sustainability efforts.
The City of Austin is committed to a zero waste goal to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90% by the year 2040. The diversion rate at the end of fiscal year 2021 was 41.96%.

Residential services

A bluebonnet field in Austin
Pennybacker Bridge
ARR provides residential curbside collection of trashrecycling and composting. Additional services include large brush and bulk collection, street sweepingdead animal collection, and operating a drop-off center for hard-to-recycle items and household hazardous waste.
All residents in Austin, including single-family homes, and apartment and condo dwellers, pay a monthly $4.70 Clean Community Fee to provide services that keep Austin clean and enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and the downtown area. 
426,957 households paying the clean community fee

Curbside collections

209,981 residential curbside customers
ARR provides curbside collection services to 209,981 single-family homes and multifamily properties with four units or fewer. Larger multifamily properties are serviced by private haulers. ARR collected 63,030 tons of recycling, 53,455 tons of compost and 138,955 tons of trash through curbside collections. In addition, 11,973 tons of bulk items, 8,339 tons of large brush, 506 tons of litter and large debris, and 42 tons of clothing and housewares were collected. ARR also increased boulevard and bike lane sweeping levels from once per month to twice per month.
The pandemic forced the temporary suspension of curbside bulk and large brush collection services. Large brush collections resumed the week of October 12, 2021 and bulk collections resumed the week of October 26.
Curbside Composting Collection Program expansion
Originally slated for Fall of 2020, ARR completed the final expansion of the Curbside Compost Collection Program in February of 2021, after delays related to the pandemic and Winter Storm Uri. The expansion brought the service to all remaining ARR customers (approximately 55,000 additional Austin households), after a four-year phased-in approach.
An ARR composting truck comes to collect the contents of the green composting cart.
Curbside collections: 63,030 tons of recycling, 53,455 tons of compost, 138,955 tons of trash
A sanitation worker rides on the back of a composting truck.
11,973 tons of bulky items, 8,339 tons of large brush and 506 tons of litter and large debris were collected.
Clothing and housewares items gathered for collection
42 tons of clothing and housewares collected

Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

Map of Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center Location
At the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center, customers can drop off a variety of items to be recycled, reused or safely discarded, and pickup mulch, paint and more at no charge. 987 tons of household hazardous waste and 1,323 tons of other hard-to-recycle material were collected. 222 tons of household hazardous waste were recycled or reused and 33 tons of ReBlend Paint were produced from unwanted paint customers dropped off.
In response to the increasing concerns of COVID-19 and because of damages to the facility suffered by Winter Storm Uri, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center was temporarily closed to the public December 24, 2020 through March 8, 2021. Austin and Travis County residents were able to schedule contactless pickup of household hazardous waste from their homes for safe disposal during that time.

New appointment scheduling tool

After the temporary closure, the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center reopened, by appointment only, and launched a new scheduling tool. The tool was incorporated into ARR's existing mobile app and web widget, making it easy for customers to make an appointment. In the period between March 8 and September 30, 2021:
  • 24,209 households used the tool to make an appointment.
  • 37,608 scheduled dropoffs took place.
  • 117,734 items requested to be dropped off for reuse, recycling or safe disposal.
Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center: 1,323 tons of material and 987 tons of household hazardous waste collected. 222 tons of household hazardous waste recycled or reused.
33 tons of ReBlend paint produced
Andy Dawson runs styrofoam through the compressor at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

Additional community programs

  • ARR Home Rebate Program: After 11 years, ARR has discontinued its $75 home composting and chicken keeping rebate. In its final year, ending September 30, 2021, 716 rebates were awarded. Austinites can still learn how to compost and keep chickens at home through instructional videos and trainings without the rebate.
  • Generation Zero: In partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful, ARR provides presentations, activity kits, youth service projects and field trips for students in grades K through 12 to raise awareness about recycling, composting and conservation, while fostering environmental stewardship. Through this program, 4,074 students were educated about zero waste.
  • MoveOutATXMore than 12,000 students live in West Campus and a significant volume of material (which could have been reused) is abandoned on the curb or near dumpsters when students move. After a hiatus due to COVID-19, MoveOutATX returned in July 2021 and helped keep 15.27 tons of material circulating in the local community and out of local landfills. For the first time, the program partnered with the Homeless Encampment Assistance Link (HEAL) Initiative and received nearly 2,000 pounds of materials like cleaning supplies, toiletries, hangers and kitchen items to give to neighbors previously experiencing homelessness.
  • Multifamily Compost Pilot: ARR recruited multifamily properties to participate in six months of composting service to measure opportunities, challenges and cost impacts of composting with multifamily tenants, launching the Multifamily Composting pilot in March of 2021.
  • Zero Waste Block LeadersEngaged residents who are passionate about sustainability and zero waste, Zero Waste Block Leaders offer their time and knowledge to friends, families and neighbors. They share information about recycling, composting, repurposing and repairing. ARR has 454 participants in this program.
716 home rebates awarded
Recycler for life graphic
4,074 students educated about zero waste initiatives

Business services

25,666 commercial businesses paying the Clean Community Fee
ARR provided cart-based trash, recycling and compost collection services to 2,128 commercial customers. There are 25,666 commercial businesses that pay the Clean Community Fee for services that keep Austin clean and enhance the livability of our neighborhoods and the downtown area.
2,128 commercial curbside customers
Two women discuss recycling in an office

Universal Recycling Ordinance

80.36% of annual diversion plans submitted.
The Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO) requires commercial business owners and multifamily properties to ensure that all commercial tenants, multifamily residents and employees have access to recycling. It also requires food-permitted businesses to ensure that all employees have convenient access to diversion methods that keep organic materials out of landfills. 80.36% of annual diversion plans were submitted.

Zero Waste Business Rebate

The Zero Waste Business Rebate is an incentive encouraging businesses to expand or improve their recycling, organics and diversion efforts to reduce the amount of trash sent to the landfill. Businesses or properties must meet all ordinance requirements to be eligible. Eligible applicants can earn up to $1,800 in rebates. Ten Austin businesses were awarded a total of $14,624.26 in rebates. Changes were made to the rebate for fiscal year 2022.
$14,624 reimbursed to 10 businesses with the Zero Waste Business Rebate

Circular business services

In partnership with the Economic Development Department, ARR launched programs to support local circular businesses through regular business retention visits, CircularMeet-Ups and unique events. The inaugural Circular Austin Showcase connected circular economy businesses and entrepreneurs with potential investors in the region and awarded $3,000 to a pitch event winner. The sixth annual [RE]verse Pitch Competition awarded $12,000 to social entrepreneurs to develop business ideas that repurposed local waste streams and added a new accelerator program for competition winners.

Construction and Demolition Recycling Ordinance

On average, 59% of construction and demolition waste was diverted from landfills
The Construction and Demolition Recycling Ordinance requires construction and demolition projects to divert construction waste from landfills. The team focused on laying the groundwork for a more fully realized program by creating a project plan which outlined educational strategies that used a data-driven approach to increasing the rate of recycling plan submission from permit holders. The average reported diversion rate is currently 59%.

Financial report

ARR's services help to keep Austin clean and protect Austin's green spaces and water sources. Pictured view of Downtown Austin Skyline from Zilker Park.

Total fiscal year 2021 ARR revenue: $107,449,687*

*Unaudited results – not final.
The overall department revenue exceeded budgeted amounts by $3.6 million or 3.4%. The three major budgeted revenue sources performed as follows (listed in order of revenue received, from highest to lowest):
  • Residential services exceeded budget by $1.0 million.
  • Clean Community services exceeded budget by $0.4 million.
  • Commercial services were under budget by $0.3 million – all attributable to the Central Business District.

Revenue breakdown

  • Residential Services $70,618,958
  • Clean Community Services $29,021,093
  • Recycling Sales $3,277,665
  • Commercial Services $2,177,113
  • Extra Trash $517,050
  • Other (Includes general government, interest, property sales, county and other miscellaneous revenue.) $1,837,807

Total fiscal year 2021 ARR expenses: $105,212,601* 

Overall expenses were less than budgeted expectations by $1.6 million. *Unaudited results – not final.

Expenses breakdown

  • Collection Services $46,979,433
  • Transfer and Other Expenses (Includes interdepartmental charges, accrued payroll, insurance, bad debt, administrative support, Communication and Technology Management (CTM) support, etc.) $27,422,612
  • Support Services $9,448,354
  • Litter Abatement $7,112,512
  • Operations Support $7,030,320
  • Waste Diversion $5,763,610
  • Remediation $1,455,760

ARR’s leadership in the City’s efforts to help people experiencing homelessness

Violet Bag Program

Violet Bag Program set up in Austin
ARR continued to provide daily collection service at Violet Bag locations around the city. Over the course of the year, the program grew from 28 sites to a total of 49 sites and collected more than 520 tons of waste.

Encampment cleaning and support

ARR led the coordinated effort on encampment cleanups, hosting weekly cross-departmental meetings and assisting Public Works with 687 cleanings, which collected 814 tons of debris.

Winter Storm Uri

With a record low temperature of 6° Fahrenheit, 164 hours of freezing temperatures and snow on the ground for a record-breaking number of consecutive days, the City of Austin was rocked by Winter Storm Uri in February and March of 2021.
A crane arm on a truck collects large brush after Winter Storm Uri
Unsafe road conditions forced the cancelation of all ARR curbside services for seven business days. Once road conditions improved, ARR managed the debris cleanup from the storm, which resulted in the collection of over 1,700 tons of large brush material through 518 special service requests placed by customers. As a result of the storm, ARR also experienced significant increases in the amount of material collected through the curbside composting program (which collects food scraps and residential yard trimmings) during the month of March, with an approximately 60% increase of tonnages collected, compared to March 2020. As a result, curbside composting and large brush collections continued to experience service delays through March and in part of April.
In addition, ARR partnered with Austin Water to allow Austinites and Travis County residents to drop off storm debris and other yard waste at the Hornsby Bend BiosolidsManagement Plant, free of charge.  The facility is now accepting large brush and yard waste permanently. ARR also assisted the Aviation Department by clearing taxiways and runways at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. 
518 service requests to pickup large brush after Winter Storm Uri

Nationwide commercial driver shortage

Commercial drivers are in high demand and many industries are suffering as a result, especially solid waste. Other large cities in Texas have had to delay solid waste collection services due to driver shortages. ARR has been submitting various proposals, with steps to be taken to help the department avoid having to enact similar service delays.
A female operator drives an ARR composting truck
In October 2020, City Council approved a resolution directing the City Manager to review current compensation and training practices and explore opportunities to improve ARR operator retention, compensation and satisfaction. In addition, ARR has been certified as a Texas Department of Public Safety Third-Party Skills Testing Program to conduct Class A and B Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) testing on behalf of the Department of Public Safety. This provides ARR with a competitive advantage when recruiting, hiring and onboarding new operators. In fiscal year 2021, ARR's operational training team has assisted and trained 38 employees that have obtained their CDL. ARR is also periodically holding a series of driver job fairs to serve as mass hiring events to fill vacancies for permanent and temporary positions within the department.

Looking ahead:
The future of zero waste in Austin

River Place Nature Trail in Austin
As Austin grows, ARR looks ahead and consistently searches for opportunities to reach zero waste in Austin, while providing exceptional customer service.

Commercial Compliance Unit

This year saw the deployment of the department's newly formed Commercial Compliance Unit (CCU). Serving as ARR's "boots on the ground," compliance officers interact directly with the business community to provide education about the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO), improve ordinance compliance, and increase the submission rate of commercial recycling plans. The CCU plans to expand and benefit the department for years to come.

Comprehensive Plan

ARR engaged the community on the development of the Comprehensive Plan via surveys and focus groups. Additionally, the analysis and recommendations portion of the project was finalized. 
The Comprehensive Plan will serve as an update to the department's existing Master Plan that has been in place since December of 2011.
Zero waste by 2040

On-call services

  • In 2018 ARR began piloting its first on-call service, which included two bulk collection routes. Rather than receiving two pre-scheduled bulk item collections per year, customers in the pilot select their bulk collection dates, as needed, and can schedule up to three each year. This allows ARR to anticipate the materials that will be collected, resulting in more items being diverted from the landfill.
  • Austin and Travis County Residents can typically  drop off household hazardous waste at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center. With the temporary closure of that facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ARR began a temporary on-call collection of household hazardous waste from customers' homes. Staff is exploring the possibility of putting this service in place as a pilot.
  • ARR staff is currently developing an on-call large brush collection pilot, similar to the on-call bulk pilot.

Environmental equity

ARR prioritized its commitment to equity and environmental justice this past year. Environmental racism has been an ongoing environmental, social and economic challenge for communities across the country, and ARR is focused on ensuring all Austinites have a safe, clean environment. This is crucial to the advancement and integration of sustainable, resilient, equitable development. In order to achieve its equity goals, ARR served on numerous environmental justice panels and created a racial equity tool designed to identify and address issues of race in ongoing work, both internal and external.
ARR continues to develop and invest in programs, services and projects that respond to the needs of all racial groups in the community. ARR strives to be a trusted and helpful resource, strengthening its understanding of and response to community needs by regularly assessing and enhancing established processes, systems and structures. The department also aspires to cultivate a workforce that understands the importance of racial equity and how its work can advance racial justice in Austin.
People enjoy kayaking and water sports on Barton Creek in Austin.

Plastic water bottles

U.S. Plastics Pact

The City of Austin, along with nearly 100 government entities, companies, NGO’s, research institutions and other stakeholders launched an aggressive national strategy, called US Plastic Pact’s Roadmap to 2025, outlining targets to realize a circular economy for plastics in the United States by 2025. Learn more about ARR's efforts to reduce single-use plastics.

Vehicle Fleet Technology Upgrade

The future of ARR is bright and streamlined as progress with the Vehicle Fleet Technology Upgrade (VFTU) continues. Soon, the route management system will bring together several essential ARR functions, including in-vehicle technology to assist with collections, and integration into the City of Austin's billing system and 3-1-1's service request system. By automating manual processes, the VFTU will simplify City employees' jobs and increase productivity across the board.

Waste characterization studies

ARR completed the sorting portion of the follow-up to the waste characterization study from 2015. This study allows ARR to gain insight into progress towards Austin's zero waste goal through a diversion rate analysis and capture rate audits on both ARR-collected and non-ARR-collected materials. The results of the latest study will be published in the future.

Awards and recognition

The City of Austin has a goal of reaching zero waste by 2040. ARR received recognition in pursuit of that goal:
  • 2021 Gold Rank Award from the International Economic Development Council for the Circular Economy Program
  • Grant award in the amount of $600,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield Office
  • ARR was selected to serve on the Advisory Council of the US Plastics Pact after joining as an inaugural activator
  • Excellence in Wastewater Pretreatment for seven years (FM 812 Landfill) and 12 years (Mabel Davis). Learn more.

Customer satisfaction

Holiday trees get recycled at Zilker Park and turned into mulch. This is one of the many services ARR provides.
At the end of each fiscal year, ARR customers are surveyed by a third party about City of Austin services, including curbside recycling, composting, trash, bulk and large brush collections; cleanliness of City streets; and household hazardous waste disposal. The latest available results are from fiscal year 2020 (the fiscal year 2021 survey is still underway). Here are the 2020 ARR customer satisfaction survey highlights:
  • In 2020, the annual survey was sent to 993 customers and 922 completed it, resulting in a 92.8% completion rate.
  • The survey was conducted online and over the phone to capture more diverse responses (previously the survey was conducted online only).
  • Satisfaction with ARR employees remained high at 89%.
  • The 2020 value of service was rated at 76%.
  • Overall satisfaction with ARR service is 78%.
  • Key takeaways from comments include defining ways to improve communication and customer knowledge on ARR programs and services.