Zero-waste initiative has city studying roadkill recycling


by MORGAN CHESKY / KVUE News and photojournalists DOUG NAUGLE, MATT OLSEN

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 27 at 8:32 AM

AUSTIN -- It is a goal set for more than 25 years from now, and it's no easy task. The city of Austin wants to be a truly zero-waste city by the year 2040. That means recycling or reusing everything, and they do mean everything.

In Chris Farr's job, the earlier the start, the better.

"I start 6:30 every morning," Farr said. "Shovel, pitchfork, basically your gardening tools is what we use."

Ask Farr what he does and he'll tell you, "collections."

It's what the city employee collects and how that makes him a city savior of sorts.

"Once you get past the smell, it's just like any other job. It's something you do day to day," said Farr.

"I woke up this morning, and there was a dead opossum in the middle of the street," laughed Anita Canales.

No playing opossum here. Farr takes care of flattened fauna -- a job the city calls "animal recovery."

"The weirdest thing has been a sheep so far, a 150 pound sheep," Farr admitted. "That was a first for me, and that was probably after my first week."

When it comes time for the city to dispose of the roadkill, the landfill is where it ends up. In just the past year alone, crews have dumped more than 36 tons of remains at the Texas Disposal Systems Landfill. It's a fate the city plans to change.

"Composting animals is not new," said Dennis Roberts with Austin's Resource Recovery. 

Ashes to ashes, animals to compost?

"Everything that's going to the landfill right now is being considered," said Roberts. "We're looking at everything. We're trying not to leave anything out."

Austin's goal is zero-waste by 2040. Why not, in a city that already recycles Christmas trees and turns sewage into dirt? Commercial compost piles can break down an animal in just a few weeks. Two months later, once the soil's cured and sifted, it's ready for the garden.

More research needs to be done. Still, the idea gives a glimpse of what Austin's future holds. As for what Chris Farr holds, you get the idea.

"Everybody in the city is contributing," smiled Farr. "I'm just doing my part."

  It's a saintly act, even if he does use a pitchfork.