The Statesman has this article with all the details about new restaurant requirements going into effect in 2016:
Austin restaurants and other food businesses will have to compost food scraps starting in 2016, under new rules the City Council OK’d Thursday.
Food service businesses — including fast-food chains, caterers, cafeterias and bars — that are bigger than 5,000 square feet will be required to separate out organic and compostable materials from other trash and have them picked up by private haulers.
Smaller food businesses will have to comply starting in 2017.
Food trailers will be exempt for now, because the city needs to spend more time developing rules unique to them, said Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery, the city of Austin’s trash and recycling department.
Under the rules passed Thursday, large food service businesses also will have to recycle several materials, including paper, plastics and aluminum, starting next year. Smaller food businesses will have to comply later.
The new rules aim to help the city meet its so-called zero waste goal of dramatically reducing the trash sent to landfills by 2040, Gedert said.
Food scraps and other compostable goods make up 40 to 50 percent of the trash that restaurants generate, Gedert said. Keeping those goods out of the landfill will go a long way toward achieving zero waste, Gedert said.
The policy passed Thursday builds on rules that the city enacted last fall, when it began requiring large apartment properties and office buildings to recycle more materials.
City crews will not collect the compostable goods; restaurants will have to hire companies to do that, Gedert said. Currently only a handful of Austin companies offer compost collection services.
Jeff Paine said his Austin company Break it Down collects compostables from about 100 smaller Austin restaurants and food businesses. Rates vary, but run about $40 to $60 a month, he said.
Most restaurants can adapt by swapping out trash bins with compost containers near food-prep tables, he said.
A hurdle that large restaurants often face is finding extra space outside for large compost and recycling containers in addition to Dumpsters. “If you have to give up a parking space for that, you’re losing revenue,” Paine said.
Don “Skeeter” Miller, co-owner of County Line restaurants and president of the Greater Austin Restaurant Association, said the membership was initially skeptical of the compost rules but is now mostly supportive, mainly because the rules won’t take effect for a few years.
County Line on the Lake took part in a city pilot program for compost collection at restaurants. The biggest problem was a limited number of companies to haul compostables, which drove up the rates, Miller said.
Had the months-long program lasted a full year, County Line on the Lake would have paid an extra $6,000 to $7,000 for collection and pickup of compost materials. It also spent $4,500 or so on extra containers, employee training and expansion of the trash bin area to accommodate a composting bin, Miller said.
More competition may drive the prices down until composting costs little more than throwing those items into the trash, Miller said.
“The kids at my restaurant, they’re into it. The customers don’t throw stuff into the right container right now,” Miller said. “But we know that’s going to change, and want to do it the right way. If we get to 2016 and we’re still at the same place (with a dearth of haulers), I want a trigger that says, ‘we’re still not where we need to be.’”
Patrick Terry, owner of the P. Terry’s burger chain, said he’s not familiar with the details of the new rules, but is generally supportive.
“Costs are always a concern, and this will probably affect restaurants with large menus more than us,” Terry said. “If we’ve got a few years to work it out, I’m in favor.”
The city of Austin started a pilot program last year to collect compostable goods from 7,000 Austin homes. It hopes to expand that program citywide in the future, Gedert said.