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Recycling reboot

The city of Houston is taking a crack at boosting participation in its curbside recycling program by making it easier to dispose of recyclables.

The pilot program, to be announced by Mayor Bill White today, will be offered to about 10,000 households in eight neighborhoods. Residents will be given wheeled 96-gallon recycling bins, similar to the city-provided plastic trash bins, in which to dump every recyclable.

Currently, households with curbside pickup must sort recyclables into two “streams”: paper goods and containers (plastic and cans).

In addition to increasing the number of households participating in Houston’s recycling program, officials hope the “single-stream” method will solve common complaints about the city’s twice-a-month recycling program: that it’s too complicated to sort the materials and haul them to the curb, that the bins are too small, that glass is not included.

We currently save our glass and then haul it periodically to the neighborhood dropoff location on Center Street, so if and when this comes to my neighborhood I’ll certainly appreciate it. It’s not that long ago that glass was a part of the curbside program; I wonder if we have statistics about participation rates from back then for comparison. I think these are all good things and I’m glad to see them happen, I’m just not sure how much effect they’ll have. I think it’ll excite those who are already participating, but don’t know if those who don’t will care. I hope I’m being overly pessimistic.

The long-term goal is to increase recycling participation. A 2008 survey from Waste News pegged Houston with a dismal 2.6 percent recycling rate.

White has said the city’s rate will approach 20 percent after the implementation of new programs. In January, the city began a wood waste recycling program for tree limbs and brush. In the spring, officials are planning to expand yard waste recycling through the use of biodegradable bags.

But single-stream recycling appears to be an increasingly popular strategy for improving participation. Fort Worth and Plano already have single-stream programs.

A single-stream system can more than double participation rates, said Pat DeRueda, president of Waste Management Recycling Services.

Again, I sure hope that’s the case. I still think that at some point, the city is going to have to implement some kind of pay-to-throw scheme, where fees are imposed for trash pickup beyond a certain volume. I think there’s too many people who won’t change their ways until it is made inconvenient or expensive for them not to.

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2 Comments

  1. cb says:

    The program sounds like a great start. There is so much waste that can be recycled for everyone’s benefit.

  2. Carey says:

    Yes! Yes! My parents in Austin have a full-size wheeled bin and absolutely love it!

    I have a giant bin of glass waiting to be taken to the recycling center. I hope they start adding that as well to curbside pickup.