Learn more about our local efforts to prevent pollution and protect public health in the Greater Houston region!
As the fourth largest city in the country and a global leader in energy and business, Houston has enormous potential to set a positive example for other cities in environmental policy. Recycling has been one issue at the heart of Houston’s environmental programs and our focus at TCE, since recycling is not just good for the environment – it is powerful for economic development as well.
Texas Campaign for the Environment and our allies in the Zero Waste Houston coalition rallied to expand curbside recycling to all neighborhoods serviced by the Solid Waste Management Department, and we won! Houston expanded single-stream recycling to every neighborhood in 2015, so that residents can put all of their recyclable items into the big, green bin separate from trash.
In 2016, Houstonians rallied to keep curbside recycling from being suspended altogether, and the community won on that front as well, with the exception of glass, which was excluded in the short-term contract the City signed with Waste Management.
However in 2017 and 2018, TCE mobilized pressure on the City Council to make sure that the new long-term contract included glass in curbside recycling once again. After pressing for more transparency, the City Council approved a contract with FCC in January 2018 – with a saving of $11 million over its earlier bid.
There are still many more steps to go. About half of all residents live in apartments and have limited access to recycling. Food and organic waste also accounts for a third of what we throw in landfills, where it becomes responsible for 18% of methane greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Illegal dumping affects many neighborhoods with blight, but city enforcers cannot keep up with violators. To address the waste problem at its source, cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin and Dallas have also passed long-term solid waste policies to reduce trash going to landfills and incinerators by 60%-90%, creating thousands of jobs in the process.
Zero Waste cities advocate for better product and packaging design by reducing single-use bags and partnering with manufacturers to recycle hazardous products such as e-waste. These programs are part of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls “sustainable materials management,” a path toward a circular economy that conserves natural resources with products that are healthy for people and the planet.
Like and follow the Zero Waste Houston Facebook page and get more involved with Zero Waste in our community.
Mixed Waste Processing or Dirty MRFs
Houston Press: Yeah, that’s right, leave it to an eight-year-old to make collecting roughly one-fifth of the city’s recycling tonnage his responsibility.
Houston Chronicle Op-Ed: The current call to eliminate curbside recycling in Houston confirms the need to commit to long-term recycling goals.
From our blog: Candidates for Houston’s At-Large City Council positions represent the entire city and should be strong supporters of the environment. A recent forum let the public hear where they stand.
From our blog: We have transcribed interviews with at-large candidates for Houston City Council about recycling in Houston. Learn where they stand, then use our website to email them your thoughts!
In the 1960s, a Houston paper mill hired a waste company to dispose of thousands of tons of toxic sludge from the paper making process into pits next to the San Jacinto River. Decades later, the pits have sunk into the river where it crosses I-10. This toxic waste is contaminating our water, fish and plant life all the way to the Galveston Bay with dioxins – one of the most toxic chemicals known to humans.
Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed elevated rates of certain types of cancer in the communities neighboring the Waste Pits. People who fish for food, boat, and swim are especially at risk due to exposure to cancer-causing dioxins in the river. After years of study, the U.S. EPA finally designated the San Jacinto River Waste Pits as a “Superfund” site in 2008.
In September 2016, the EPA proposed their cleanup recommendation: full removal of the waste! This is a huge victory for the hundreds of area residents who have been speaking out about the toxic site for years. The polluters who will have to pay, however, would rather cap the site instead, even though the existing cap keeps failing. Now, we need your help to make sure that the EPA’s final decision orders the polluters to fully remove the toxic San Jacinto River Waste Pits!
Proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under consideration this year ignore the reality of how critical the EPA is to cleaning up the many Superfund sites that affect our region. The Superfund process for cleaning up toxic sites like the waste pits is targeted for 30% budget cuts under the President’s proposed budget.
This year, our U.S. Congressmembers will be voting on a budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Under the President’s plan, the EPA’s budget could be cut by 31% — including 30% cuts to the Superfund program. Several other programs could be eliminated completely, including the environmental justice program, which seeks to provide resources to low-income communities directly impacted by pollution, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act which combats air pollution, as well as climate change research. These are just a few examples of EPA programs that have benefited Houstonians directly and that you can help defend.
Most Texans agree with common sense policies to protect our land, air, and water, and pass on a healthy environment for future generations. Your voice can make a difference in how our members of Congress will vote on cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. We need you to let them know you support the Superfund process, as well as vital functions to prevent pollution and protect the most vulnerable residents in our state.