Austin's recycling center became overwhelmed by a spike in recycled plastic items in the weeks after the city ended its boil-water notice following flooding that filled lakes with silt, mud and debris.
Austin Resource Recovery saw the number of recyclables collected in October increase 8.7 percent from the same month last year, the Austin American-Statesman reported . The center's data show November's recyclables jumped 5 percent from the previous year.
Austin officials told residents on Oct. 22 to boil their tap water before drinking it after rain and flooding overloaded water treatment plants' capacity. The notice led panicked residents to clear grocery stores out of plastic water bottles and jugs before the city lifted the order Oct. 28.
Austin handed out roughly 626,000 gallons of bottled water over four days.
Ron Romero, the city recycling center's division manager for operations, said the amount of plastic recycled in three weeks following the crisis was "just crazy."
The center picked up roughly 5,230 tons of recycling in October, up from around 4,800 tons the same month last year. Collectors picked up about 5,160 tons of recyclables in November, an increase from about 4,900 tons the previous year.
Austin Resource Recovery had 40 staff members work overtime in the two weeks after the boil-water notice. The center also used additional trucks to recover the high volume, while residents had recycling carts overflowing with plastics and set up extra boxes along their curbs.
"It was really a surprise. They were telling everyone to boil the water. We didn't see it with the amount of recyclables that we collected," Romero said. "I don't think they necessarily heeded that advice."