Last year, the city of Dallas passed legislation that enacted a zero-waste initiative with the ultimate goal of recycling nearly all of its waste by the year 2040. The current legislation calls for a 84% recycling rate for all waste produced and collected by the city. The leftover 16% of waste is comprised of materials that are currently not recyclable, or even reusable. The plan will eventually affect every associated branch of the waste management industry, including municipal trash collection and private dumpster rental companies.
Dallas’ adoption of the zero-waste plan is driven by a booming population and lack of space to devote to new landfill construction. Currently, the city produces some 2.2 million tons of waste annually, with 77% of it destined for landfills. The plan originally included steps to gradually introduce expanded recycling services, but members of the public and city council forced their removal. Some of these steps included mandating recycling for apartments and businesses, two traditional areas that do not recycle. The steps also included the introduction of composting programs for local residents and businesses to dispose of their food waste. Other possibilities included city-wide bans on polystyrene, the foam-like substance used to make coffee cups, and plastic bags.
Each of these steps are now being carefully reviewed to determine when they should be implemented, with broad input from the public. City officials are now consulting various groups, including the head of a local organization that represents Dallas’ apartment industry, in order to compromise on certain measures. The apartment industry has reservations about any mandated recycling programs, since apartment complexes must contract out their waste disposal services. Recycling is typically charged as an optional extra, meaning apartment owners must shell out more money to dispose of the same amount of waste.
Even with certain industries objecting to the new zero-waste plan, many residents and local businesses see it as a positive change. Because by the time the year 2040 rolls around, Dallas’ population will have grown by 40%, based on current trends. That means a whole lot more garbage to go around, with fewer landfills left to manage all of it. That’s why other cities, both in Texas and across the country, will be reviewing their own waste management services over the coming years.