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.
Last year, 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, 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 is no longer accepted in the curbside program, for now.
Now we are excited to take the next step, and address the recycling and food scraps generated in neighborhoods not serviced by the city, as well as apartments and businesses. 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 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. The first step toward Zero Waste in Houston is to set a measurable goal to get there. That’s why we are asking residents to email or write a letter to our new Mayor and City Council in Houston to establish a Zero Waste goal for us to divert up to 90% of its discards from landfills and incinerators by 2040.
You may have heard about an unfortunate proposal currently being evaluated at City Hall that would undo our progress in recycling. The disastrous “One Bin for All” proposal would combine all trash and recycling into the same container that would then go to a $100+ million facility where endangered workers would sort through the trash that we can and should recycle ourselves. Even worse, the proposal calls for incineration technologies that would further pollute our air and destroy materials that should be recycled. Recycling industry groups, including the Paper Recycling Coalition, National Recycling Coalition and the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries have come out against this controversial proposal.
Now that Houston has continued curbside recycling program with a two-year contract, we are advocating that Mayor Turner establish a Zero Waste goal for Houston to expand recycling and composting and divert up to 90% of waste from landfills over the next few decades. In the next year and a half, Houston will also be negotiating the next curbside recycling contract, and we think that process should include public input. You can help today by contacting your elected officials and candidates for office. Send your message today!
Write to Houston City Council and Mayor Sylvester Turner urging them to support a Zero Waste goal for Houston.
Mixed Waste Processing or Dirty MRFs
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!
From our blog: We have transcribed interviews with mayoral candidates for Houston City Council about recycling in Houston. Learn where they stand, then use our website to email them your thoughts!