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If you want your trash to be collected

It’s best to put your trash can where the automated pickup arm can get it.

Three feet between bins, please

Last year, at least 9,000 trash cans in the city were left uncollected at some point, according to records kept by the city, a small percentage of the total number of bins emptied in a year, but enough to slow down an otherwise efficient operation.

On a recent morning, for example, one trash can was left too close to a mailbox, another was blocked by a parked car. [Garbage truck driver Derrick] Colomb had no choice but to slap orange tags on the offending bins.

Other times, what makes sense to residents becomes a huge inconveniences for the trash collector: a box full of paper sitting on top of a bin that fell off and spilled when Colomb tried to pick it up; smaller items of garbage thrown into the bin without being bagged, such as dirty paper towels, spill all over the front yard; bins that are filled over capacity.


The ZIP codes with most uncollected trash calls are 77004, 77026 and 77087, according to city records.

City officials say those neighborhoods are plagued with unauthorized trash cans and illegal dumping.

“They in general put out more trash and trash cans,” said Jeffery Williams, deputy assistant director of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department.

I seem to recall my bin not being emptied once or twice, but I don’t recall receiving a tag on it, which would presumably have explained why. If I’m remembering accurately, I’d say the most likely reason was a parked car too close to the bin. If you’ve ever seen the way this works, you’d understand why this is an issue. Basically, there’s a swinging arm that protrudes from the truck, with a pincer end that grabs the bin, then the arm lifts the bin and swings it over the truck, turning it upside down to empty it. This is true for both trash and single stream recycling bins. I definitely do see loose bits of trash or recycling on the ground occasionally after pickup, probably on days that are a little windy. Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered about this, now you know. Watch where you put your bins, and don’t overfill them or stack anything on top of them. Your garbage collector will thank you for it.

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  1. Christi says:

    Another example of the insanity and inefficiency of a municipal curbside recycling program! Houston’s One Bin for All program could curb all of this by allowing residents to put everything in one can for collection, efficient separation and reuse of most of the trash we landfill. What a great idea. I still don’t understand why the Texas Campaign for the Environment is against this concept. I see they have posted the Houston Director’s position yesterday so Tyson Sowell must know TCE is on the wrong side of this issue. I smell a rat, or perhaps I should say, a Robin?
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (:
    Best of luck to you Tyson. You have always maintained a level of dignity far above those idiots in Austin who supposedly run that org.

  2. Christi says:

    Sorry, I forgot to add this from their job post on the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition website.

    Currently, the top priority for Houston-area organizing is to stop a plan to do away with curbside recycling and have residents throw recyclables, organics and trash in one bin to be mechanically sorted at a “dirty Municipal Recycling Facility.”

    This is an environmental organization that wants curbside recycling to continue its abysmal past instead of improving? Really?