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City starts composting pilot program

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The city of Austin is trying out a new program that could save you some money on your utilities bill. It's a composting program that thousands of Austin residents began trying out this week.

Melissa Presti is one of about 8,000 Austin residents chosen by the city to compost.

"When you think about composting, a lot of people think it's a pain and hard but honestly it takes to second and it's for a good cause," Presti said.

She was given a small bucket for kitchen waste and a larger 96-gallon container to dump it all in. Once a week city crews will pick it up.

Crews will take the waste they collect to a local composting facility. The city's Resource Recovery Department is behind the project. Their goal is to gather some important data for a more permanent program.

"The key thing for the pilot is to figure out how many homes we'll be able to do per day per route, how much personnel it's going to take, how much equipment it's going to take," Litter Abatement Div. Manager Vidal Maldonado said.

But the research doesn't come cheap. Maldonado says they are spending about $500,000 for the length of the program. Most of it spent on the containers themselves. But it could mean saving millions in the long run, he says, because it means less waste going to the landfill.

"The more space you can save in your landfill for future use, where you are using it for just the items that really need to be buried," Maldonado said.

The cost savings could also trickle down to composters as well on their monthly utility bill. The theory is since costs are based on trash cart size, if you put out less trash, you can use a smaller cart. It's something Presti and her family is hoping to do.

"That's definitely enough incentive for us for sure," Presti said.

Not to mention she says the effect less waste could have on the environment. It's that near-zero waste goal the city is also trying to reach by 2020.

The city says after the spring they'll begin to get numbers on how the program could work long term. It's that time it could be expanded to more residents

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