City officials in Austin, Texas, have turned to the Loomis, Calif.-based consulting firm of Gary Liss & Associates to develop a zero-waste plan. A draft of the Austin plan is expected to be ready in May and presented to the city council in October, after the city budget is finalized.
Gary Liss, president of Gary Liss & Associates, says the plan will focus on the reduction goals the city established in 2005 when Mayor Will Wynn signed the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords. That agreement called for a 20 percent per capita waste reduction by 2012 and zero waste by 2040. Over the next few months, Gary Liss & Associates will hold several meetings with the Austin community and local officials to get input and gauge the policy, program and facility needs that must be addressed in the plan. Liss points out, for example, that policies like an city ordinance passed in 1998, which mandated recycling for businesses with more than 100 employees and multi-family dwellings with more than 100 units, need to be examined. “Why only focus on those buildings and complexes?” he says
“We're letting him drive the report,” says Willie Rhodes, Austin's director of Solid Waste Services. Gary Liss & Associates has worked with local governments to develop zero-waste plans since 1998 — most notably Del Norte County, Calif., Palo Alto, Calif., and the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District. Rhodes says the city's diversion rate is currently less than 30 percent. City officials requested the inclusion of five key aspects of the plan based on their research, Liss says, including improved infrastructure for recycling and composting programs, new rules and incentives to encourage participation, considerations for green industry, bans for problem materials, and public education.