This week the city of Austin, Texas implemented its most aggressive step yet to help the city go “zero waste” by 2040. The new ordinance, which prevents all restaurants and food businesses from throwing away organic material or excess food, took effect on Oct. 1. While the program has been in the works since 2016, and many large businesses have been already disposing of their excess food in compliance, the October 1 deadline means that even small businesses have to comply.
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One large organization helping implement the ordinance is the Austin Resource Recovery, a city of Austin service to help the city reach their zero waste goal within the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO). The program as a whole is set in place to encourage economic development, reduce harmful environmental impacts, and increase the life of local landfills. It also stands and supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) food recovery hierarchy.
Businesses are now responsible for providing access to an alternative method of disposal of organic waste, bilingual signs for their employees, education on organic material, and reporting their waste and their annual organic diversion plan to the government. While it seems like a big change for restaurants to implement, this program is set to save restaurants money and get them thinking about all of the food waste that goes through the doors. According to Feeding America, $218 billion dollars worth of food is thrown away each year with estimates that 72 billion pounds of food waste are discarded each year; that doesn’t include waste from homes.
Large restaurants are encouraged to prevent waste by using bulk condiments and using reusable containers for deliverables. Foodservice businesses may also recover surplus foods by selling “day-old baked goods” as well as use items in specials. Food waste can be donated to feed hungry people at food banks and food scraps can be given to farmers to feed livestock and other materials composted.