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Rebidding reycling

Do-over!

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Pummeled by procurement concerns on a 20-year curbside recycling contract, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday he will seek a new round of proposals from the four final bidders.

Turner had met with small groups of City Council members Thursday to get a better sense of the concerns they repeatedly have raised since the proposal first was rolled out in late June, and announced his decision early Friday.

“This action is designed to put to rest the concerns raised by members of council, which must approve the contract before it takes effect,” Turner said. “Whatever the result, my only allegiance is to this city and I will always seek what is in its best interest.”

[…]

The four firms that will be invited to submit a new round of final bids are FCC Environmental, Republic Services, Waste Management and Independent Texas Recyclers.

The mayor did not specify how much time the firms would have to submit their proposals or how quickly they would be evaluated.

See here and here for the background, and here for the Mayor’s statement. I don’t know what went wrong in this process, but clearly something had gone off the rails. I’m glad to see this happen, but let’s do review how we got here and figure out how to do it better next time, OK?

Meanwhile, Gray Matters returns to the One Bin For All question with a few words from Roseanne Barone, the Houston Program Director for Texas Campaign for the Environment.

The national Paper Recycling Coalition, Steel Recycling Institute, Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries and others knew that when used materials, food and pet waste are all combined together, it is also known as another name — “trash” — and so they wrote letters to then-Mayor Annise Parker advising her against this policy.

Thankfully, when Mayor Turner took office in 2016, he knew the best practice for Houston is to keep recyclable materials separate and clean so they can be sold to commodity markets and generate revenue for the City.

[…]

According to the Houston-Galveston Area Council, when we include composters, hard-plastics reclaimers, electronics processors, construction- and demolition-debris recyclers and manufacturers of goods made from recycled items, we have 21,550 recycling jobs in our region and an industrial output of $4.5 billion per year.

Who knew recycling was so vital for Houston’s economy? Additionally, throwing all discards into landfills supports a disposable, wasteful culture while doing real damage to our environment. There are 56 leaking landfills in the state of Texas, four in Harris County and one in Fort Bend County. Landfills are also more often than not located in low-income neighborhoods, so trashing valuable materials also perpetuates environmental injustice.

Barone, like her predecessor Melanie Scruggs, advocates for a zero waste policy. At the very least, bringing curbside recycling to apartments and businesses would make a difference. Let’s get the recycling deal done and go from there. The Press has more.

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2 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    “At the very least, bringing curbside recycling to apartments and businesses would make a difference.”

    Very astute observation, Kuff, and something no one talks about. How many apartment units are there in Houston? How many businesses? That’s a lot of recyclables not getting into the recycling stream.

    The other problem your article mentioned is cultural, and thus verboten from discussing:

    “Recycling Industries and others knew that when used materials, food and pet waste are all combined together, it is also known as another name — “trash”….”

    Look at all the illegal dumping and trash in Houston, much more concentrated in some areas. The people who do this, who force their communities to live in filth aren’t going to participate in recycling, and if you are really lucky, they will just use recycling containers and dumpsters as regular trash receptacles, which ruins the load for recycling, but at least keeps the streets and ditches clear.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    As to the contract itself, I’m guessing that the Spanish company wouldn’t be willing to take the risk of building an entire new infrastructure from scratch without a long term (15-20 year guarantee), while the other players who bid probably already have at least some of the infrastructure in place, so they were happy to bid on a shorter term contract.

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