This is good news.
Houston is poised to dramatically expand its recycling programs through a variety of initiatives aimed at ending the city’s reign as the most wasteful major metropolis in the country.
The stepped-up effort includes a pilot program using advanced technology that will allow participants to heave all their recyclables — paper, seven types of plastic, aluminum, even glass — into a wheeled 90-gallon bin that can be hoisted on a truck and sorted with little human effort.
The City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance that will set aside $1 million of revenue from the sale of recycled commodities as a dedicated annual fund that can be used for the pilot program and a recycling education and outreach effort.
The funding and programs could push Houston’s recycling rate above 30 percent in another year, city officials said, a far cry from the 2.6 percent cited in a trade magazine last year that put the city at the bottom of the 30 most populous metropolitan areas in the nation. That kind of improvement would push Houston above other large Texas cities, but still leave it far behind municipalities like Chicago and San Francisco.
“We’ve set some very ambitious goals,” Mayor Bill White said Tuesday, noting that the city aims to reduce the amount of trash it sends to landfills by 20 percent in the next 18 months. “Whenever we use that space in the dump sites, we’re creating a time bomb for the future in our city.”
It took them long enough to get around to it, and I don’t know if it was something that was always in the plans or if the recent coverage about Houston’s abysmal record on recycling spurred this, but better late than never. Getting glass back into the curbside recycling program is huge. So many people are amazed to hear that we don’t already have curbside pickup for glass recycling.
There’s still a lot of room for growth here. I’d still like to see curbside recycling brought to every neighborhood in Houston, with a goal of increasing participation among the low performers. I think a more aggressive education-and-outreach effort, combined with the adoption of a “pay as you throw” program would do that. I’d like to see an effort to encourage more recycling among businesses and restaurants. What’s being described here is a great start, and I’m glad to see it, but it’s not the end. We still have a long way to go.