You Don't Get Something for Nothing: Environmentalist Still Thinks Houston's New Recycling Project Is Wanting

Categories: Environment

recycling_061713.jpg
Photo by chrissatchwell
Is there one right way to recycle? Maybe.
The City of Houston is moving forward with plans to build a recycling project, but environmentalists still insist the project the city has chosen is, ironically enough, bad for the environment.

Now city officials have opened up the field for bids on the project, and Tyson Sowell of the Texas Campaign for the Environment is still saying the project is the wrong way to go.

Back in March, Mayor Annise Parker announced that the city had received a $1 million grant as finalists for a proposed recycling project, "One Bin for All." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the sponsor of the contest, was, of course, a big fan of the idea, which would take recycling out of the hands of individuals and make it something that simply happened to all Houston trash as a matter of course.

"One Bin for All is a first-of-its kind innovation that will revolutionize the way we handle trash, achieving high-volume recycling and waste diversion, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower operating costs....I know this cutting-edge technology has the potential to improve health and quality of life not only in Houston, but around the world," Parker stated in March when accepting the award.

While some major cities have been pretty into recycling for years, Houston doesn't offer curbside recycling to all residents and has a recycling rate of about 14 percent, according to Sowell.

"That's an abysmal percentage," he said.



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12 comments
Christi
Christi

Thanks BGoldfish for responding to these "so called" protectors of the environment.  TCE is bought and paid for by the landfill owner and he's scared to death they'll bring this plant to his backyard.  Tyson should read the RFQ.  This project is totally funded with private dollars and has to save the city money from the first day.  Also, 17 mil is a bit low for the bins, trucks, fuel and labor to include the rest of the city in its curbside program.  Pay attention TCE - you're on the wrong side of this one and the real environmental organizations in Texas are about to call you out.

GlenW
GlenW

I keep thinking this no-sorting-one-bin-for-all approach is a never ending April Fool's joke. Wake up people, this can't possibly work as well as what we've been doing for years. Just a way to spend grant money if you ask me.

BGoldfish
BGoldfish

Wow!  So surprising that an organization partially funded by a landfill operator would oppose a program that decreased the amount of material sent to landfills.  While $17 million for new recycling bins would be less than $100 million for a new facility, single stream recycling requires separate trucks to come collect the recycling and the waste, and obviously using two trucks uses twice the fuel, labor and money.  And of course, the landfill fees that we pay on 86% of our waste add up very quickly too.  So though this idea would be expensive to implement, there is a huge potential for savings.  "His organization is still hoping city officials will decide to go with a more old-fashioned approach to recycling"  Sorry Mr. Sowell, but old-fashioned is not Houston's style.  The old system has failed us and I agree with Bloomberg in thinking it's time to rethink the whole process.  

LaurenK
LaurenK

There are so many things Houston can do to raise its recycling rate other than spending $100 million on a questionable program. Get everyone the big single-stream bins TODAY!!! Pick up recycling once a week and trash every other week, like most other cities I've lived in. Make people pay a small fee ($1 or $2 per bag) if they have excess, non-recycled trash. A big part of the reason people don't recycle here is (a) it's hard and (b) there are no incentives. In my neighborhood, I still have to haul my glass to a neighborhood recycling center--I'm not surprised most busy people aren't willing to do that.  But instead of taking a practical approach that could improve recycling rates quickly and easily, we're wasting all our energy chasing this pipe dream.

Jeff Hunter
Jeff Hunter

I voted for the one-bin idea, but only because I got the seller's side of the story. When you want to sell something, people mask the downside. Mr. Sowell takes an honest look at this idea, and he makes an excellent point. This objection has been out a while...the author of the article does not indicate whether the Mayor's office has a response to Mr. Sowell's concerns. It does seem strange that the City would rather spend $100 million instead of $17 million just to build something fancy that ends up producing more waste than recylables.

Anse
Anse

There is something about this I'm not getting. I had the little bins in the Heights for years. I now live in a neighborhood that has one-bin-for-all, and it's great. There are only two differences between the two: volume, and the fact that we can put glass in the big bins, whereas I had to haul my glass to the Center Street collection center before. If I was wrong to place plastic and tinfoil and beer cans in the same little bin, nobody said a dang word to me about it. My little bin of recyclables was collected every other week just like it is now, except now my bin is bigger, and it has glass added to it. 

bjkane
bjkane

@ChristiTCE is bought and paid for by the tens of thousands of real Texans who donate every single day to the dedicated grassroots organizers that brought Dallas curbside recycling, expanded real effective e-waste recycling to every corner of Texas, and have generated over 19,000 letters to the Mayor and City Council from Houstonians that demand an expansion of single-stream real recycling now. A lot of folks on here seem to speak for what "Houstonians" want. Yeah, that's you too BGoldfish. Well, Where are the tens of thousands of Houstonians demanding the end of single-stream and the beginning of one-bin-for-all, because I certainly don't hear it. The people know what they want, and that's what they should get. The people, who TCE takes the time to listen to and represent, want single-stream. Any "Real Environmental Organization" that supports thermal technologies that release Dioxins and Furons into our air is not a "real environmental organization," and none of them, I guarantee you, have had the level of REAL COMMUNITY INPUT, to the tune of, again, tens of thousands of Houstonians, that TCE has on this issue.

Anse
Anse

@BGoldfish If the one-bin-for-all approach works, I suppose it might be money well spent. But if the city really wants to increase community participation in recycling, the large single-stream bins is all they need to do. I'm convinced the smaller bins are the main reason so many people don't bother recycling. They aren't nearly big enough for an average household. Almost everybody in my neighborhood sets their big bins out every other week, and my neighbors are not exactly paragons of progressive thinking. Even all the yards with Romney campaign signs had the recycling bin out on the curb every other week. 

bjkane
bjkane

@Anse you do not have "one bin for all" ... and that's part of the problem. Many many many folks confuse "one bin for all" with the "single stream" recycling that they DO have. Single stream is the BIG recycling cart. It's awesome, and that's what Tyson wants us to continue with. "One Bin for All" does not exist for anyone in Houston yet, and hopefully it never will. "One bin for all" is where your recyclables AND your garbage go into the SAME bin, which contaminates your recyclables with all the nasty stuff in the garbage (cat litter, etc.) and makes them no longer valuable as a comodity. Also, the "One Bin for All" (catchy name, I will give the city that) plan requires the creation of a Dirty MRF, which has its own horrible environmental impacts. 

Anse, you're not alone though. Most folks who hear "one bin for all" think of the single-stream big cart for recycling and go "i love my giant recycling cart!" ... that's NOT, and in many ways is the opposite of, a "one bin for all" Dirty MRF

GlenW
GlenW

@Anse @BGoldfish Not to mention every-other-week is not nearly often enough. Anyone should have more recyclable waste than trash if he's doing it right.

BGoldfish
BGoldfish

@Anse @BGoldfish Getting single-stream recycling to all Houstonians would definitely be a huge improvement over our current situation, though that still doesn't solve the problem of having to collect twice from each house.  Those with dual-stream (small bins) require three trucks to come by and collect!  Two trucks is certainly better, but I think that over time, the savings from only having one collection (plus the savings from reduced landfill fees) would be well worth the initial investment.

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