Recycling pilot project update

As you know, Monday was the day that the new compostable bag ordinance went into effect. It was also the day that the city’s automated recycling program was to be extended to many more houses. From a story in the Houston Business Journal last month:

The City of Houston is making its biggest expansion to date for its rewards-for-recycling program, RecycleBank.

As part of the newest expansion, 54,000 Houston households will receive new 96-gallon recycling carts.

RecycleBank is a program operating in cities nationwide that rewards households with points based on the amount they recycle. The points are redeemable at places such as retailers, restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies.

We first heard about RecycleBank last October. More about them is here.

RecycleBank is a program operating in cities nationwide that rewards households with points based on the amount they recycle. The points are redeemable at retailers, restaurants and grocery stores, pharmacies, and much more. In an effort to encourage more recycling and greener behavior, the City partnered with RecycleBank, rolling out the large recycling carts to more than 22,000 homes last year, and began offering single-stream recycling, in which all recyclables go in the one large container—no more sorting. After the Houston City Council approved a budget to purchase the additional 54,000 recycling carts in January, now more than 76,000 households will have single-stream recycling with rewards from RecycleBank this April.

The decision to expand the program is partly based on the success of the first phase. In four months, participating households more than doubled the amount they recycle, sending 3.3 million fewer pounds of waste to the landfill in just four months. With 3.3 million fewer pounds of waste in the landfills, these recycling Houstonians have helped save 16,810 trees and 1.1 million gallons of oil.


In the coming weeks, residents should look for a letter from Mayor Parker and a mailer from RecycleBank with information about the program and how to sign up. The City will begin distributing the additional 54,000 recycling carts this month, with first pick up for the RecycleBank program slated for Monday, April 5, 2010. For more information about the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department and its services, please visit

Here’s the list of neighborhoods that are on the expansion list. By my count, it’s a bit less than 15,000 households, so I presume there’s more to come. Which is good, because my neighborhood isn’t on the list yet. Anyone out there receive that letter from the Mayor? Please leave a comment if you did.

As for the biodegradable bags, there have been a few bugs in the system so far.

In the first days under the law, Houstonians have found the bags too small, too thin, too expensive and too hard to find in stores.

Brent Vannoy, who lives in a leafy neighborhood in north Houston, said the biodegradable bags don’t do the job of their plastic predecessors. He found fault with the thickness of the new bags, as well as the need to keep them dry in a typically wet climate.


Greg Tobeck said he supports the move to the biodegradable bags, but they’re too small. With two large live oaks in his front yard, Tobeck said, he needs seven to do the job of two or three plastic bags.

He wants the city to allow compostable bags as large as 55 gallons, up from 33 and 39 gallons.

Tobeck’s suggestion has merit, and I hope the city follows up on it. We’ll figure out the rest of it over time. Composting in place is also an option. What’s been your experience so far?

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2 Responses to Recycling pilot project update

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    My wife and I recycled regularly before our neighborhood became part of the automated recycling program, but now that we are in the program, we have noticed that we recycle more than we used to. This is partly because the automated program takes more recyclables, but also because it is so easy – just put the recyclable items in the green bin instead of the black one. We now recycle more than half of our solid waste. The RecycleBank program is also quite easy to join and use. All in all, well done by the City, and I hope to see this program rolled out more and more across Houston.

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