Recycle or lose it

If your neighborhood is lax about curbside recycling, it might lose that service.

The city has compiled a naughty-and-nice list of neighborhoods that get curbside recycling pickup, and those with poor participation rates may get booted from the program, officials said.

If fewer than 10 percent of households in a neighborhood set out recyclables on the curb, then the coveted service could go to a neighborhood on the waiting list.

“It really makes no sense for us to spend resources if those neighborhoods are not going to participate,” said Harry Hayes, director of the city’s Solid Waste Management Department.

The city did two house-by-house counts in 2006 to gauge participation. One count took place after a $350,000 marketing outreach effort by the city.

The problem of insufficient participation in curbside recycling goes back a ways. If you remember the report from last year about imposing a fee for heavy trash pickup, some of the revenue from that was supposed to be used on recycling efforts. I really don’t know why this service is so underutilized, and I think it’s time – past time – for the city to do a real PR/education blitz to get more people to use it. This is exactly the kind of thing that would be ideal for a public/private partnership, as local businesses can help by pushing the concept in their offices as well. Ideally, the recycling program should be a moneymaker for the city. The fact that it’s not, at least as of 2005, is a tragedy and a big missed opportunity.

Garden Oaks is one neighborhood that could lose the service. It had a 9 percent participation rate.

“I would be very upset,” said Ivan Mayers, vice president of the civic club. “The city shouldn’t be reducing recycling, they should be trying to increase it.”

Mayers said the community deserves some more time and education.

“Garden Oaks is a neighborhood that’s changing,” he said. “We have a lot of older retired people and they’re not really used to recycling, but we’re getting a lot of younger, up-and-coming people, and they’re very environmentally conscious.”

Mayers said he will ask for a city official to come speak at the civic club meetings.

I have no problem with giving these neighborhoods one last chance. But let’s get on with it. If there are other neighborhoods that will actually use the service, they need to be allowed to do so.

On a related note, I like this idea as well.

Houston could offer citywide recycling of “wood waste” such as tree limbs, stumps and brush as soon as this fall.

The program could divert more than 90,000 tons of trash from landfills, saving taxpayers $1.7 million a year. But residents would have to sacrifice half of their heavy-trash pickup days.

City Council could vote on the proposal in the next few weeks. Under the plan being considered by the Solid Waste Management Department “wood waste” pickup would take place on the scheduled heavy-trash day, every other month. Heavy trash — such as furniture, appliances and some building materials — and “wood waste” would alternate months.


LETCO will charge the city $12.45 a ton for the wood. That would save taxpayer money, since the city does not own a landfill and must pay tipping fees of $32 per ton to dump its trash. Officials estimate wood waste makes up almost 30 percent of the solid waste generated by the city.

Seems like a pretty clear win here. What’s the concern?

Councilwoman Jolanda Jones expressed concern. She said the recycling is a good idea, but halving heavy-trash pickups could cause problems.

“I don’t think every other month is sufficient,” she said. “On the north side, and especially in Acres Homes, they need more rather than less heavy-trash pickup.”

Then maybe this needs to be done in a way that allows for some areas to get a different level of heavy trash pickup. Maybe that solid waste fee that was discussed last year could be revived for this kind of purpose. I see no reason why this can’t be worked out.

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One Response to Recycle or lose it

  1. concerned citizen says:

    The RecycleBank program seems like a great solution for Houston.

    It is an incentive based recycling program through single container curbside pickup with automated can pick-up (like current garbage pick-up). RecycleBank bins are outfitted with a special code, which is recorded by the recycling truck, and your “weight” in recyclables is then stored in the system.

    It is now available in cities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, Nebraska, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.

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