Austinites required to recycle, but not bars


While Austin is trying to save the planet by banning plastic bags, every night thousands of glass bottles are thrown away. A lot of those are beer bottles that could be recycled, but in Austin there’s no requirement to do so. However, that could soon change.

Night after night tons of recyclable glass bottles are thrown in the trash by bars and nightclubs across the city of Austin. Currently most businesses aren’t required to recycle glass bottles. That’s because only commercial businesses that are more than 100,000 square feet have to recycle.

“For it to become a sustainable deal there has to be some incentive to do it,” said Bob Woody, who owns several restaurants and bars in downtown.

Woody says while it’s not required of him, most of his establishments recycle glass bottles and aluminum cans.

“We separate it ourselves and we put it in a dumpster that’s specific to a glass recycling dumpster,” he said.

Woody says it’s something he’s done for more than a decade because in one night alone a single bar in downtown can sell a lot of bottled beer.

“On a Saturday I would so your typical bar would probably go through 3,000 bottles,” Woody said.

There are approximately 57 bars in downtown Austin. If each threw out 3,000 bottles, that would be 171,000 bottles in one night.

“You feel bad when you’re adding something to the landfill that doesn’t have to be there,” said Woody.

Last year alone 600,000 tons of beverage containers were dumped into Texas landfills. A good portion of those were bottles and now one state lawmaker is trying to change that.

State senator Rodney Ellis of Houston authored a bill this session known as the “bottle bill.” The idea is to require businesses to recycle glass bottles and in return each bottle turned in would be redeemed for a nickel.

“We’ve got 17 billion containers or bottles that are discarded in Texas annually. Maybe 4 billion are recovered,” said Ellis.

But Ellis is hitting a road block. It seems support for the bill isn’t there right now and the bill it hasn’t made it out of committee.

“I’m getting resistance from the bottling companies. From the alcohol and beverage companies. Some people who I think ought to be natural allies.”

While it may not happen state-wide, Austin is on its way to requiring all businesses to recycle bottles. By 2017 all of Austin will be required to recycle. Something Woody says should’ve happened a long time ago.

“The whole deal is to help the environment. There’s no profit. We’ve never made a profit,” said Woody.

Currently Dallas and Houston have pilot programs that encourage commercial recycling. Neither city requires it. Some major U.S. cities that require commercial recycling, including glass bottles, are Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.

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