Learn more about our local efforts to prevent pollution and protect public health on the Gulf Coast of Texas!
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!
Disasters like Hurricane Harvey pose a serious environmental and public health risk: they create scenarios like those in Crosby Texas that not only knocked out power and created flooding that backed up generators but also caused thousands of residents to evacuate due to chemical fires. We cannot wait for the next flood—knowing where facilities and pipelines are located and where they travel are key to reducing the effects of these disasters.
The Houston region is covered with thousands of miles of pipelines and hundreds of extractions points on publicly managed lands. These sites are often hazardous dumps, chemical storage sites, and industrial facilities that developed and are poorly managed in direct contact with vulnerable communities.
Through a grant from the Coalition of Environment, Equity and Resilience (CEER) a partnership was developed between Texas Campaign for the Environment and Texas Southern University’s School of Environmental Policy to create a space for open-source data sharing and mapping of extraction points across the Gulf Coast region. Our aim is to highlight through data, the points and miles in which oil and gas is extracted from public lands for the profit of private industry. We hope this information can serve as a resources for the fight against environmental injustice and degradation in communities across the region.
We are also working to halt permits and the development of facilities across at the Texas Legislature and with the state environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Contact your local officials and tell them we need to clean up toxic waste sites before another major flood like Harvey!