AUSTIN (KXAN) – In an effort to find ways to reduce trash in Austin waterways, the Watershed Protection Department proposed looking into banning single-use products from Austin facilities and evaluating the possibility of prohibiting the sale of single-use material that negatively impact Austin’s water quality.

On Thursday, the Watershed Protection Department sent out a revised memo to the Austin Mayor and City Council that described current efforts to reduce trash in the waterways and posited recommendations for future policy considerations. 

The Watershed Protection Department proposed changing policies at City facilities in and around waterbodies, such as limiting City procurement and distribution of single-use plastic and polystyrene in all City of Austin facilities and researching the City of Austin’s ability to enact a ban on single-use containers on waterways. This could mirror San Marcos’ “can ban,” which prohibits people from bringing single-use cans while floating on the Comal River.

The suggestion of banning sales of single-use plastic or polystyrene containers was inspired by another Florida initiative, according to the memo.

Other recommendations included strengthening and diversifying penalties for littering, incentivizing the use of recycled bags, designating a “Trash Coordinator” to focus on program efficiency and effectiveness and adjusting city code to try to reduce dumpster overflow, especially near waterways. 

These recommendations were in response to a Trash in Creeks presentation given in September 2022. One of the biggest takeaways was that roughly three-quarters of all the trash found in waterways was in 10% of the surveyed area — meaning surveyors found dense pockets of litter because of the way streams flow. Single-use plastic was the most common type of trash.