Houston’s curbside recycling program is in limbo after Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council rejected a new contract with Waste Management on Wednesday, prompting concern among residents and environmental activists about a potential lapse in service.
Such a lapse would come about a year after the city finally expanded its curbside program to all homeowners. It also would occur amid an ongoing City Hall push to close a budget gap of more than $126 million by July 1, an effort likely to result in layoffs of city workers.
Turner emphasized that he is committed to recycling but said he was uncomfortable entering into an agreement he viewed as working against the cash-strapped city’s best interests.
The city’s current contract with Houston-based Waste Management to process recyclables expires March 16.
“We will continue with recycling. We just have to put forth a strategic plan where it can continue, where it’s cost-efficient, and we’ll try to do it in such a way that’s the least disruptive,” Turner said. “Instead of it being like twice a month, it may have to be once a month for right now, but we are certainly talking to a number of other players out here in the marketplace.”
Turner plans to announce a new recycling plan Monday. He declined to offer details on the options available to the city but said he is looking to other bidders.
In an emailed statement, Waste Management said the firm remains open to working with the city and is prepared to accept recyclable materials without a contract.
“Amidst the unfortunate rhetoric coming from the city are very workable solutions,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, the potential – and last-minute – solutions floated by the mayor and city officials can’t be characterized as constructive because they’re economically unworkable. This can’t be a one-sided solution. Losing money on a recycling contract with the city isn’t a solution in our view.”
Waste Management’s current noncontract recycling rate is $104 per ton, the same amount Turner proposed paying under a one-year deal.
See here for the background. I don’t know what Mayor Turner has in mind, but I can’t wait to hear it. If I were the one who had to come up with something, I might suggest a two-year deal – Waste Management proposed four years, the city said one year – with the hope that commodity prices (largely a factor of China and its economy) might have crept back up by then. The city doesn’t want to get locked into a long-term deal where they have to pay a high price, while Waste Management wants some price certainty. Maybe that would work, and maybe there are some other players out there eager to jump in on this market. I sure hope so. In the meantime, we may wind up paying the rack rate for awhile. Tune in Monday to see what the Mayor has up his sleeve.