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On garbage fees and single stream recycling

You might have seen this blurb a few days ago about Solid Waste director Harry Hayes making a pitch to Mayor Parker to expand single stream recycling to every home in Houston:

To reach 100 percent, Hayes told City Council today, would require a $3.50 monthly garbage fee. Houston is among the only major U.S. cities that does not charge citizens extra for garbage pickup, and although Hayes has tried to persuade two mayors–Parker and former Mayor Bill White–to join the others, Parker made it clear that Houston would be doing no such thing.

She told council that although Hayes may continue to try to persuade her and others, she did not support the idea.

I’m sure that between Renew Houston, the water rate hike, and all the other assorted increases, another fee is the last thing Mayor Parker wants to hear about right now. Still, the single stream recycling program has been a big hit, and since this story ran I’ve heard from a number of people, many of whose neighborhoods aren’t a part of it yet, who wondered if that means it’s not going to be expanded at all any more. So I got in touch with the Solid Waste department, and this is what I learned from chief of staff Gary Readore.

– As of right now, 105,000 households have the 96-gallon single stream recycling carts. Another 100,000 have the 18-gallon dual stream recycling bins. The remaining 170,000 households that are serviced by Solid Waste have neither.

– It remains the plan for all 375,000 households to eventually get the single stream carts. The key word in that sentence is “eventually”. Basically, that program will be expanded as the revenues they collect from the sale of the recyclable material allows them to buy more of the carts and the trucks.

– Looking through my archives, the announcement that recycler AbitibiBowater was going to put up $3 million to upgrade its Houston facility to process single-stream recyclables was made in July of 2008. The first 10,000 households received their carts in March of 2009, followed by 50,000 more in April of 2010 and another 30,000 in December of 2010. (Yes, I know that doesn’t add up to 105,000. Either I missed another expansion in there, or the numbers in these reports were rounded down.) At that rate, I figure they could at least reach the next 100,000 or so houses by summer of 2012, which would put them more than halfway there.

– As you might imagine, imposing the $3.50 fee would generate enough revenue to speed this up considerably. Clearly, it isn’t going to happen now, but if you’re still waiting for it and you want it sooner you should keep asking about it, and be willing to pay the fee.

Hope that helps. My thanks to Gary Readore for answering my questions, and to CM Noriega’s office for putting me in touch with him.

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8 Comments

  1. robert kane says:

    Imagine if businesses and apartments got in on single stream, how much landfill space would be saved.

  2. Al Clarke says:

    Why doesn’t gov’t mandate that businesses and apartments participate in the single stream recylcing program? Perhaps gov’t can fine them if they fail to recycle and the funds collected from such fines could be used to expedite the roll out of services to all households across the city.

  3. Robert Nagle says:

    I agree with the other two commenters: these kinds of initiatives are futile if they don’t address apartment waste. (The nearest recycling facility is 10 miles away — that’s a 20 mile drive both ways).

    My solution is to agree with a homeowning relative to let me use her recycling bin.

  4. Al Clarke says:

    Please note that my comments about a gov’t mandate and imposition of a fine for businesses and apartments that do not participate in single stream recycling program was sarcastic. I am not in favor of such actions by gov’t and believe such actions to be ill advised, illegal, and counter productive. I do support recycling efforts and would encourage local gov’t (City of Houston) to consider alternative ways to encourage, promote and enlist businesses and apartments in the single stream recycling program.

  5. Noel Freeman says:

    Personally, I’d be happy to pay $3.50 a month to get single-stream. It would save me the hassle of having to store trash in my house, load said trash into my vehicle, and transport it to the recycling center. It would be well worth it, but that’s just me.

  6. […] carts a year thereafter. That sounds like a lot until you realize that as of February there were 270,000 households serviced by Houston’s Solid Waste department that do not have the big bins. I’d like to […]

  7. […] carts a year thereafter. That sounds like a lot until you realize that as of February there were 270,000 households serviced by Houston’s Solid Waste department that do not have the big bins. I’d like to see the […]

  8. […] asked about that before as well. Basically, the city generates revenue from the recyclables they collect, and when […]