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The Complete Guide to Austin Recycling and Waste Disposal
Find an Austin Recycling Center for All the Junk in Your Trunk (And Elsewhere)
Austin recycling has a long and successful history. As a community, we work hard to create an ever greener and more sustainable city. From our record-breaking commitment to solar energy to our initiatives to attract companies with sustainable business models, we’ve become a lesson for the rest of the country in how going green can have both economic and environmental benefits for a community. Our next move is an ambitious one: to achieve “zero waste" by 2040. This means that by 2040, the city of Austin will be keeping 90% of all waste out of landfills. Seems like a tall order, but it’s one that any average citizen can help achieve simply by ensuring that you handle your home waste disposal properly. Recycle what can be repurposed, donate what can be reused, and dump only those items that don’t fall into the first two categories.
Use this guide as your one-stop resource for where and how to responsibly dispose of a variety of materials, either by finding the proper Austin recycling center or a great place to donate them.
America is a car-obsessed country and Austin is definitely no exception. With many households owning multiple vehicles, automotive waste has become a major waste category for the city. This is a problem because many of the items that make up the auto waste category are extremely toxic to the environment; we can't even accept them in our Austin dumpster rentals. Before you head to the trash can (or the dumpster), view this list of options for automotive recycling in Austin.
Tires can be a nightmare for landfills when not properly handled. Methane gas builds up inside them as they “float” to the top of the heap, eventually bursting to wreak havoc on landfill infrastructure.
Gasoline should only be disposed of if it’s too old to safely fuel your car or other vehicle. Because it’s highly flammable, gas should never be disposed of with normal household waste or mixed with other automotive fluids.
Used motor oil and lubricants can make a mess of your garage. But they make an even bigger mess of the environment when they’re not properly disposed of. Don’t toss them in the trash, pour them down a drain, or mix them with each other or any other automotive fluids.
Remodeling and construction produce a lot of waste. There’s no way around this, but if we’re going to keep our city on track for Zero Waste, it’s important to ensure that our home improvements don’t end up making a mess of the environment. You can conserve both landfill space and vital resources by properly disposing of construction debris at an Austin recycling center below.
Old shingles are not hazardous to the environment and are often still in useable condition. This leaves you with multiple options for disposal. Worn out shingles can be recycled into asphalt pavement, while shingles that haven’t been significantly damaged can easily find new life in another Austin homeowner’s remodeling project.
Paint and paint thinner contains numerous chemicals that can contaminate soil and ground water. Luckily, Austin boasts some unique alternatives to the landfill. You should bring old paint thinner and empty cans for oil-based paint to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center. Empty cans for latex-based paints should be allowed to dry out and then placed with the trash. DO NOT place them in recycling.
Producing metal the old-fashioned way—mining and refining—harms the environment by destroying habitat, polluting groundwater, and using significant amounts of fossil fuels. So don’t just toss scrap metal in the trash. If you do, not only will you be harming the environment, you may be throwing away an opportunity to make some money.
Just because a car no longer runs, or you don’t want to spend any more money repairing it, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer useful. If your scrap metal is in the form of a car, you can donate it to support the missions of various Austin charities.
As technology changes and advances at an ever-faster pace, electronic waste has become one of the largest waste categories in the nation. Aside from the sheer volume, electronic waste contains various materials that spell big trouble for the environment when they end up in landfills. It’s more important than ever for our residents to find Austin recycling options to dispose of electronics in environmentally friendly ways.
Many valuable resources are used to make a computer, including metals, plastic, and fossil fuels. When you factor in the environmental damage done by procuring those resources, it becomes even more important to keep computers out of landfills.
On top of glass and plastic, TVs (especially older models) contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium that can leech out to contaminate soil and groundwater. Whenever possible, televisions should be repurposed instead of thrown out.
Major appliances like ovens, refrigerators, and washing machines are composed of metals and plastics that require massive quantities of fossil fuels to produce. On top of that, the coolant necessary for refrigerators and freezers to function is extremely toxic. Appliances of all kinds should be kept out of landfills whenever possible.
This is the biggest and most diverse category on this list, and it’s probably also the category that you deal with the most on a day-to-day basis. Because these are the odds and ends that clog up our junk drawers and the backs of our closets, it’s easy to become complacent and view this whole category as “stuff that gets thrown in the trash." But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of Austin recycling options for disposing of household items more responsibly.
Because they contain springs or foam, mattresses often don’t compress properly in landfills, taking up large chunks of valuable space. That space could better be used for items with no alternatives to disposal.
Repurposing clothing frees up landfill space for the real trash, and donated clothing can be a major help to someone in need. Just remember that clothing should only be donated when it is still in pretty good condition: no major stains, holes, or tears, and nothing threadbare. Luckily, even if your clothes are no longer wearable, there are alternatives to throwing them out.
Food is one of the largest waste categories for any city. Luckily, food waste is one of the most acceptable substances to send to a landfill, because it’s non-toxic and totally biodegradable. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives to explore for a city with a zero waste goal.
Paper and plastic products account for a huge percentage of all landfill waste. This is because many of the products we commonly view as disposable are made from these materials. The more paper and plastic we can keep out of landfills the better.
Any Austin resident can request a blue curbside recycling container. Because Austin uses single-stream recycling, all recyclables can be placed together in this single container. A few notes:
Rinse out plastic food containers before placing them in recycling.
Remove any metal bits from plastic recyclables.
Only recycle hard plastics. Plastic wrap and plastic baggies are prohibited.
Expired and unused medications can be toxic to the environment, especially if they get into the water supply. But most importantly, they pose a serious health risk to people and animals who might accidentally ingest them if they’re thrown out with the regular trash. Whenever possible, medications should be disposed of at designated drop off facility
If you can’t make it to the location below, do not drop your medications straight into the trash. Instead, pour them from their original bottles into a disposable container with a lid, such as a coffee can. If possible, mix the medications with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter. Place the disposable container in the trash. The original drug containers can be placed in your blue recycling cart once you’ve removed any labels containing your personal information.
Medical waste, like syringes and needles, can spread disease or cause injury if it isn’t properly disposed of. Unfortunately, there is currently no permanent drop off facility in Austin for medical waste. Instead:
Syringes, sharps, or needles should be placed inside a sturdy plastic container with a lid, like an empty laundry detergent or bleach bottle. Once full, screw the lid on tightly and seal with duct tape. Label the container with the type of waste inside, then place it in your trash. Do not use a glass or see-through plastic container. DO NOT place your container with recycling.
For Everything Else...
For anything you can’t find an Austin recycling center for, you can make use of this list of landfills and transfer stations throughout the city and Travis county.
Recycle and Reuse Drop-Off Center
2514 Business Center Dr., Austin TX
Travis County Landfill
9600 Fm 812 Austin, TX 78719
Austin Community Landfill
9900 Giles Ln. Austin, TX 78754
3016 FM 1327 Creedmoor, Texas 7861
Texas Organic Products
400 W San Antonio St. San Marcos, TX 78666
Sustainable Success Storiesin Austin
Now that you know what to do with your waste and recycling in Austin, join us on a whirlwind tour of some of the city’s most innovative recycling-based businesses!
A zero-waste bookstore. Recycled Reads takes old library books and, based on condition, either sells them, repurposes them, or ensures they are recycled. Their award-winning approach convinced the Austin public library system to make sustainability its main consideration when ordering new books.
Austin Footwear Labs
A company rethinking rubber. Austin Footwear Labs uses recycled tires to make high-quality sandals built for comfort and durability. All shoes are composed of at least 50% recycled rubber and come in eco-friendly packaging.
A company using recycling to reduce the need for recycling. Blue Avocado uses trash items like plastic bottles and bags to create reusable versions of products that are typically seen as disposable. Their popular (re)Zip bags have helped to keep 200 million zip-style sandwich bags out of landfills so far.