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Austin restaurants may soon be required to compost

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Austin City Council will consider expanding the city's recycling and composting ordinance to require all businesses with a food service permit to compost by 2017. Council members will consider the ordinance at Thursday's meeting.

Some Austin restaurants, like Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, already compost. The restaurant began composting as part of a pilot program about a year ago and has stuck with it. Business Director Jordan Baxter says it was an adjustment at first.

"We have almost 100 employees here so you have to get everybody on the same page and it's kind of hard to educate everybody and find out if they're doing it right," he said.

But, it wasn't long before it was second nature. Eventually all Austin restaurants may have to catch on. As part of the ordinance the city is considering, businesses with food service permits that are at least 5,000 square feet will have to compost by 2016, all other business with food service permits by 2017.

"Forty percent of the waste we generate is compostable and this will help us reach our goal. We have, as a city, have a goal to reach 90 percent diversion of materials by 2040, "said Jason McCombs with Austin Resource Recovery.

The mandate will require education. "If they're going to make it where everybody has to do it, they should come up with a program to make it easy for everyone to learn to do it," said Baxter.

At Moonshine there's a color coded system. Blue means recycling, black is the trash and green is what can be composted.

"We've run composting programs with restaurants and we've done single family composting program and we've had great success with them so far. once we got people involved and actively composting we found most people were surprised by how easy it was," McCombs said.

Composting also means extra costs for bins and compost pickup. At this point, the city does not have plans for a rebate program, but that could change in the future.

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