From the inbox:
Texas Campaign for the Environment vowed today to mobilize Houstonians against Mayor Annise Parker’s so-called “One Bin for All” proposal, saying that the scheme will take recycling away from the minority of residents who already have it, delay expanding it to new neighborhoods and lay the groundwork for future environmental damage.
“This has been tried before, it’s called a dirty materials recovery facility, or dirty MRF,” says Tyson Sowell, Program Director for Texas Campaign for the Environment in Houston. “Similar facilities have been built elsewhere with promises of huge recycling rates, but none have delivered on their promise and were abandoned.”
The city is proposing that Houstonians put all their waste into one bin where it will be separated mechanically at a new $100 million facility to be located at a landfill. The city claims that technology exists for separating out recyclables from other garbage which could improve the Houston’s recycling rate to 75%. Environmental and industry groups say the facility will not work and will only delay expanding curbside recycling to all Houston residents.
“Mayor Annise Parker has ambitious goals, but all of us will be sorely disappointed when $100 million gets spent on a facility which leaves us worse off than before,” Sowell said. “We want to work with the city, but we are accountable to the environment, and a dirty MRF is wasteful and ill-advised.”
Texas Campaign for the Environment is preparing to release later this week two open letters to the mayor expressing skepticism over the scheme, one from recycling industry leaders and another from national recycling advocates, including Annie Leonard of “Story of Stuff” fame. According to the letters, many valuable recyclables, like paper, cardboard and some plastics, become contaminated during comingling, preventing them from having any value in the marketplace.
“Contamination is an issue with any recycling program,” says Rick Anthony, founder of the Grassroots Recycling Network and pioneer in the field of recycling. “But when you are purposely putting your coffee grounds in with your newsprint it devalues what could have been two valuable commodities. You can’t recycle that paper and you compost those coffee grounds. They become useless. Separating at the curb is the only way to ensure high recycling rates.”
Additionally, advocates say that another key problem with Houston’s proposal is that it encourages residents to put their electronic waste, like computers and televisions, in the same bin as other discards.
“Computers and televisions do not belong in the same bin as dirty diapers,” says Mike Buckles, owner and operator of TechnoCycle, an electronics recycling company based in Houston. “This has the potential to create a whole host of health and safety issues for companies like mine. I don’t want to deal with old food stuck on a computer monitor.”
Houston is behind other major cities when it comes to recycling, with a majority of residents having no recycling available at their home. The city’s application for the Bloomberg Grant admitted that “the mayor is constantly besieged by citizens to bring recycling to their neighborhoods.” The One Bin proposal would remove curbside recycling from neighborhoods where it already exists, and would foreclose any plans to expand it into any of the neighborhoods now seeking it.
“We know what works and we know that this doesn’t. These types of facilities have proven to be ineffective, but separating your recyclables from your garbage at the curb works, it’s just as easy, and it’s a tenth of the price,” says Tyson Sowell. “We are talking with Houstonians door to door and they see through this. We trust the Mayor will change course soon and lead the city in the right direction on recycling.”
Texas Campaign for the Environment had previously outlined its objections to the single bin plan here. At this point, the discussion is beyond my level of expertise. I will do my best to learn more and come to a judgment about it.