Earth Day Data Visualization of Austin Recycling

The City of Austin website houses daily waste collection data dating all the way back to the end of 2004. With the city growing at such a rapid pace and the effort to be green at the front of our minds, we were curious what the data could tell us about these efforts. Do newcomers share Austin’s environmental vision? How has the amount of garbage and recycling changed over the past ten years? These are a couple of the questions we will be answering with data visualizations as we celebrate Earth Day.

Let’s start by looking at the past ten years as a whole. The waste is split into categories such as garbage collection, recycling, tires, yard trimmings, etc. Please note that we will be looking at recycling as a whole rather than splitting by stream to simplify the view.


Recycling efforts have nearly doubled in the past ten years with a few ups and downs on the garbage side. The year 2009 saw the most drastic change with a 24,000-pound drop in garbage and a 29,000-pound increase in recycling. The interest in recycling was also reflected in the way that Austinites Googled the topic during that time period.

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Austin City Council adopted the Zero Waste Master Plan in January of 2009, around the time that we see recycling keywords on Google Trends spike, as more people made recycling a priority and researched the new initiative. The amount of searches is tapering off as time passes since recycling has become one of our daily habits that doesn’t require as much ongoing research.

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Lastly, let’s look at the amount of growth that Austin has seen over the past 10 years. As we all know, Austin has seen explosive growth, with some experts estimating that the city grows by 110 people each day. Some of these new residents are moving to surrounding areas but to avoid over complicating it, let’s just look at the growth of Austin proper.

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In a nutshell, Austin has growth by 200,000 people in the past ten years. With that in mind, the fact that the difference between the amount of garbage has only increased by 8.5 million pounds is rather impressive. Take into account that the amount of recyclable waste has increased each year and we see that Austinites are serious about taking care of the environment and the city that they love.

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