‘Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags’: Have a green bin? Here’s what can go in it.

City of SA makes push to get more organic material recycled

San Antonio – The City of San Antonio’s Solid Waste Management Department is making a big push to get residents to feed their green bins more scraps, leftover fruits and vegetables and old newspapers.

A 2019 city waste study showed that almost 45% of the gray cart trash ending up in the landfill was organic material that could have been recycled through the green bin.

In 2021, the City of San Antonio turned to Atlas Organics under a new ten-year contract to boost compost production.

David Newman, director of the Solid Waste Management Department, says being mindful of organic recycling serves multiple purposes.

“Organics have value, and so we don’t want to see something of value be thrown away in the landfill forever and ever,” he said.

Using the green bin helps reduce landfill use, and the organic compost can be turned into a usable item.

“It’s a sustainable program. It’s one where we can conserve natural resources,” Newman said.

Green bin collection increased in 2021, with more than 73,000 tons of organic material compared to more than 50,000 tons the year before.

The city has a new tool to help increase its compost production. Leslie Rodgers, vice president of sales with Atlas Organics, says the sort line in San Antonio where the compost is processed is one-of-a-kind in the world and awaiting a patent.

“It takes air technology. Basically, it takes robots, and it picks out the things that are not compostable. So that -- what we call contamination -- is taken out,” Rodgers said.

This kind of technology has been used for plastic recycling facilities, but it’s the first time it’s been used in a compost facility, Rodgers said. The sort line can remove about 75% of contamination -- in other words, trash -- from nonorganic material. This helps the compost be truly organic.

“It’s certified clean. So it’s a really good product, and it’s one that’s not made with manure. It’s not made with sewage sludge, but it’s made with organic material, leaves, grass clippings, etc. So that’s the kind of material that, personally, is what I would want to buy and use for my yard,” Newman said.

Compost made at the Nelson Gardens in the southwest part of the county can be purchased by any resident at 8963 Nelson Rd., San Antonio, Texas, 78252.

The city hopes to get more people to use their green bins as a sort of garbage disposal, where organic waste can be recycled. Adding more than yard clippings can help make their compost more nutrient-rich.

“Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, napkins, paper towels and paper bags. Just wrap it all up and just stick it in your green cart, and it comes to us. It’s here,” Rodgers said.

In FY 2021, the city paid $2,533,750 for organics processing. Of that, $313,128 was paid to New Earth (Oct-Dec), the previous company contracted to process the organic material, and $2,220,623 was paid to Atlas Organics (Jan – Sept).


Want to help make San Antonio more earth-friendly? Try composting

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.