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Rest of the single stream bins to be distributed

All Houston homes will be covered.

All Houston residents who get city trash service will be able to roll their recyclables to the curb in 96-gallon green carts by the start of 2015, a milestone that has been years in the making as the city slowly expanded the program, frustrating neighborhoods that sought to be included.

City Council on Wednesday will be asked to approve the purchase of 95,000 recycling bins to cover the 90,000 homes, or about one-quarter of Houston residences, that are without any form of curbside recycling.

Another batch of bins now held in reserve will replace the 18-gallon recycling tubs still used by 5 percent of homes. These smaller bins do not take glass, while the larger cartons take all recyclables.

City officials said they expect the ease of using the wheeled carts will boost Houston’s dismal 6 percent recycling rate, which lags behind the national rate of about 34 percent.

“The beauty of this thing is that everybody will be able to participate in the recycle process,” said Councilman Dwight Boykins, who has been vocal in pushing for the recycling expansion in recent months.

The expanded service will likely go into effect in January, around the same time the city is expected to announce a possible contract for its ambitious “One Bin for All” proposal. That program would offer a wholesale change to Houston’s recycling system, allowing residents to mix waste and recyclables – and perhaps even food and yard waste – together in the same bin to be sorted automatically at a first-of-its-kind facility, built and operated by a private firm.
last expansion of the single stream program was in May. Some neighborhoods have been waiting since 2007 for the big green bins, so this is a momentous occasion. What happens after that depends on what happens with the One Bin program. As the story notes, the big green bins would be the One Bins, with the black bins now used for garbage being collected by the city, presumably to be recycled. I didn’t see a press release from the city for this or any announcement on the Solid Waste webpage, so I presume this means that if you have your garbage collected by the city and you don’t already have one of the big green bins, you should expect to receive one by January. You can find a link to service maps at Houston Politics or just take my word for that. Not surprisingly, One Bin opponents Zero Waste Houston put out a press release praising the expansion of single stream recycling and calling for One Bin to be abandoned. See beneath the fold for their press release. Who out there is still waiting for their big green bin?

Press Conference: Recycling advocates celebrate Houston City Council recycling vote, oppose “One Bin for All” proposal to undo this progress

As the Houston City Council votes to finally extend curbside single stream recycling to all of the city’s residents for the first time ever, Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) and allies with Zero Waste Houston will be hosting a press conference to celebrate this accomplishment and to urge the city to drop plans to abandon this progress by pursuing the misguided “One Bin for All” proposal.

“For years now we have urged the city council to expand recycling to every Houstonian, and we are thrilled to see that the City Council is about to make that vision a reality,” Melanie Scruggs, Houston Program Director said. “It would be foolish to spend this money, do this work and then never give real recycling a chance. The city needs to take this as an opportunity to commit to proven policies, expand public education and abandon One Bin for All, a scheme that would undo real recycling.”

WHAT: Press conference on the City Council’s vote to expand single-stream recycling citywide

WHO: Melanie Scruggs, TCE Houston Program Director, invited allies from Zero Waste Houston (a coalition of TCE, Houston Environmental Justice Climate Action Network, NAACP Houston Branch, Public Citizen, Sierra Club Houston Regional Group, Houston Peace and Justice Center, the San Jacinto River Coalition, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) and the Story of Stuff)

WHEN: Tomorrow, September 17 at 8:45 AM

WHERE: Houston City Hall (900 Bagby Street), Bagby side outside plaza

BACKGROUND: Houston has never had curbside recycling for all customers served by city waste services. While most residents now have the large green wheeled single-stream carts into which they can throw clean paper, plastic containers, glass, aluminum, steel cans and clean cardboard, at least a quarter of the city’s residents have either no recycling or small hand-carried bins which do not accept glass. Recycling participation rates in neighborhoods with single-stream recycling top 60%, while the smaller bins barely crack 20% participation. The Houston City Council will vote tomorrow to fund an expansion of the single-stream program to 90,000 additional households.

The Mayor’s office is simultaneously considering a proposal dubbed “One Bin for All” which would tell residents to throw garbage in with their recycling, contaminating much of the material. They claim that a new facility will be built to sort out the discards, but contamination keeps recycling at these facilities low. The city’s bidding documents specifically call for “gasification” or “catalytic conversion”—forms of waste incineration. As the city has also suggested that the new facility be located at an existing waste site—located in predominantly Latino and African-American neighborhoods—the proposal has drawn the opposition of environmental and civil rights groups. The city is still considering bids for the program, and has appointed an advisory committee which is 80% Anglo white with no Latino representation at all. Recycling industry groups have come out against the scheme as well.

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2 Comments

  1. Bill Shirley says:

    If you want to increase recycling in the city: pick up recycling every week, and trash every other week. Zero additional cost.

  2. City Council voted to pass the item today! There was also a long discussion on “One Bin for All” with Solid Waste director Harry Hayes at the podium to answer questions. Council member Kubosh initiated the discussion asking why the city would spend $5 million on bins that would be unnecessary if they choose to move forward with One Bin by the end of the year. Council member Bradford mentioned that all the data he has seen shows that One Bin is not the way to go. Mayor Annise Parker was travelling and not present, but Mayor Pro Tem Gonzalez kept trying to steer the discussion away from One Bin for All, saying that was not the item on the agenda, but others argued the two items are inextricably linked. Harry Hayes said that whether or not the City moves forward with One Bin, expanding the green bins now will serve the communities who have been asking for recycling for years. They would want to use the green bins as the one bin if the study they are doing now comes up with the results that One Bin won’t work, which we hope is very likely.

    Dir. Harry Hayes said that right now the “recycling” rate including yard waste is around 20% for the City and with the expansion it would go up to 27 or 28%, diverting 20,000 more tons of trash from landfills next year. Add incentives, education and promotion to the mix and we can easily beat national average of 34% recycling, then add to that organics recycling and composting and we can reduce our waste in Houston by 80% or 90% in the next couple decades. That is the sustainable way to manage our resources, not gasifying them or ruining recyclables through one bin schemes. Council member Laster noted that now that most of his district has the big, green single-stream bins for recyclables only he hears from constituents that they alter their behavior to maximize recycling. That is an important aspect of sorting that has a positive ripple effect for resource consumption that you lose in a One Bin system.