The law has been phased in over the past two years.
Credit: AndreyPopov/Getty Images

As of this week, Austin,Texas, has taken its most aggressive step towards curbing food waste. An ordinance that took effect yesterday prevents all restaurants and food businesses from throwing any excess food or other organic material in the trash—or risk facing fines.

For years, the Texas capital has been phasing in its Universal Recycling Ordinance, a set of regulations and programs aimed at getting Austin to reach its “Zero Waste” goal by 2040. Part of that plan is “Organics Diversion” which requires everyone from restaurants and bars to caterers to grocers and farmers’ markets to keep food out of landfills. Though larger businesses have had to comply since as far back as 2016, October 1 of this year was the deadline for compliance by all food service enterprises.

As a result, as KTXS explains, all excess food and food scraps should either go to people in need, sent off to farms as animal feed, or composted—unless some sort of customized solution has been developed.

Sam Angoori, the interim director for Austin Resource Recovery, emphasized that the regulations are intended to benefit residents and not just be a burden on businesses. “The City is committed to helping companies, large and small, find cost-effective solutions and establish diversion programs to ensure food and other organics are put to best use while meeting ordinance requirements,” he said in a statement. Austin is also offering two events to help businesses transition into the new rules.

Though Austin’s ordinance might sound strict, the Texas city is far from the only one attempting to cut the amount of organic matter unnecessarily ending up in landfills. For instance, San Francisco passed its Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance law back in 2009, billed as the nation’s first. And since 2015, Seattle has required residents to compost food waste—though that law received some pushback when some people worried about garbage collectors digging through their trash.