ILSR and the City of Austin, Texas, have been working partners since the late 1980s, when a coalition of environmental groups, small businesses and progressive City Councilors rejected a garbage incinerator already under construction. The City Council closed down the project and initiated a path toward recycling, composting and use of low cost landfill which would save the $120 million over the planned life of the incinerator. This path lead to the zero waste program now in effect. ILSR undertook a series of workshops and planning sessions during the 1990s and 2000s and worked on the zero waste plan. ILSR continues to work with the Department of Resource Recovery by recommending companies to locate in the city’s emerging resource recovery industrial park. The City’s zero waste business plan remains a valuable resource for other cities and counties.
The city of Austin has gotten a $1 million federal grant to help it create an eco-industrial park over a former landfill in Southeast Austin.
When finished, the 107-acre park will contain about a dozen private-sector businesses that take recyclable goods and turn them into new products.
The project is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs, generate more than $30 million in private investment and boost the manufacturing sector of Austin’s economy, city and federal officials said at a news conference Tuesday.
“It’s an innovative project,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who helped secure the grant. “It will take what was once an eyesore and convert it into jobs.”
The city will start seeking proposals later this year from businesses that want to locate on the land, located off of FM 973. Construction there will begin next fall, and the first businesses will open in 2016, said Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery, the city’s trash and recycling department.
The project will help Austin meet its so-called zero waste goal to dramatically reduce the trash sent to landfills by 2040 and ramp up reuse and recycling, Gedert said.
Normally, recyclables are sent to Mexico, China or India to be transformed into new products, and this will keep that process in Austin, Gedert said. “Items will be recycled, manufactured and sold locally,” he said.
Officials said the park could also employ lower-income workers or those that don’t have college degrees — a group that the city has been accused of ignoring in its economic development efforts.
The city will spend about $2 million creating the project, which is located on two parcels over what was once a landfill. The federal grant will help set up basic infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, on the land.