Zero Waste is a strategy that includes market-based and policy objectives that aim to reduce wasted materials in our economy. In practice, Zero Waste plans take a holistic approach—minimizing inefficiencies in every step along the commodity chain—to reduce landfilling and incineration by up to 95%.
You can read more about Zero Waste here.
According to regional research, the DFW area recycles about 22% of the materials we use. This is significantly less than the national average of about 34%. While there are clearly many opportunities to increase regional recycling, we recognize the dedicated advocacy and hard-fought victories that have brought us this far.
The Cities of Dallas and Arlington only started offering curbside recycling after tens of thousands of petitions were gathered by committed residents and community organizers. We will need sustained pressure on local officials throughout the Metroplex in order to reduce our environmental impact and keep up to 95% of valuable materials out of the dump! TCE has active campaigns to expand access to recycling in Dallas, Plano, Richardson, Denton and University Park.
Multi-family buildings are home to a majority of DFW residents—and in most cities, it’s currently up to each apartment building owner or condominium association to decide whether to provide recycling access for residents and tenants.
The majority of wasted resources that end up in local landfills come from commercial, multi-family, and construction and demolition sources. Therefore, cities should work to implement policies and programs that provide recycling to everyone, no matter where they live, work or play.
Some Texas cities such as San Antonio, San Marcos and Austin have already adopted commercial recycling policies. Here in North Texas, Fort Worth, Euless, Allen, Lewisville, Little Elm and Cedar Hill have started comprehensive multi-family recycling programs through franchise agreements. We can learn from these examples to implement comprehensive recycling in other cities.
Through grassroots organizing, advocacy, and public opinion and policy research the DFW Zero Waste Alliance is working to create a more circular economy for North Texas. You can join our efforts here!
Multi-family buildings and businesses account for 83% of the waste that Dallas currently sends to landfills. Any efforts to reduce our overall waste and boost recycling must address these sources. Other Texas cities such as San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin and Fort Worth have adopted commercial recycling ordinances; we can learn from these examples and do the same in Dallas and other DFW cities.
Send your message to Mayor Rawlings and the City Council today: Dallas needs a Universal Recycling Ordinance!
Plano is currently drafting a long-term solid waste management plan. The city should work to make recycling and composting services available for all residents and businesses, no matter where they live, work or play. The city should also include residents in the planning process and establish a citizen’s commission that could give input on the objectives for Plano’s recycling plan.
Richardson has basic recycling services for all of its single-family residents. While these programs are important, the vast majority of materials used in the city are still going to area landfills. This will continue until we are able to secure recycling and composting services for all residents and businesses.
Texas Campaign for the Environment was heartbroken by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation on our neighbors and supporters in Houston and across the Texas Coast. The good news: all TCE is back to work organizing our communities on these important issues, especially as the region’s numerous toxic waste sites have been washed into area waterways and even homes.
Tell Congress: Defend Common Sense Environmental Protections
Even before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Coast we have been working to protect communities there from the legacy of toxic polluting facilities. Polluted sites such as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits pose enormous public health threats to our communities. Just as many predicted, disasters can spread the contamination. The EPA finally revealed that the flooding of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits caused the level of dioxin to soar more than 2000 times the “safe” limit for the deadly chemical. Harvey shows that the EPA and Texas need to get serious about cleaning up these sites.
U.S. Congress members are considering a budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency that could cut its budget could be cut by 31% — including 30% cuts to the Superfund program. Superfund is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s process for cleaning up legacy pollution sites. Spills from chemical storage facilities, wood treatment plants, hazardous waste disposal, and groundwater contamination from a plethora of industries are just some of the toxic Superfund sites that can be found in Texas. These sites are leaking known carcinogens and hazardous substances into soil, groundwater, and waterways. You can read about the history of the Superfund here.
Unfortunately, the Superfund for cleaning up toxic sites is targeted for 30% budget cuts under the President’s proposed budget. The Superfund has already suffered major cuts over the past few decades. Before 1995, a unique tax on chemicals and petroleum products funded the cleanup program. Since the tax was discontinued, the EPA has relied only on appropriations from Congress and the cleanup costs paid for by Potentially Responsible Parties – companies that can be identified as the cause of the pollution. After the dedicated tax funding was discontinued, the number of cleanups declined by 37% over a 15-year period despite a consistent number of sites being added to the Superfund list. The money available for Superfund cleanups is already simply not enough, and we cannot afford to cut the program even further.
We need a Superfund to stop pollution
The good news is that the federal budget does not necessarily reflect what is proposed by the President. Members of Congress will ultimately write and vote on the federal budget before sending it to the President for approval. The other potentially good news is that Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s appointed Administrator for the EPA and former Attorney General of Oklahoma, has said publicly that the Superfund process is critical to his agenda, and that he wants to make improvements to how it works. Now we need to hold Congress and the EPA accountable to making good improvements and preventing further cuts to the critical Superfund.
Pruitt formed a Task Force to recommend changes to Superfund; however, the task force recommendations do not demonstrate that it will prioritize community input or public health or the environment over the interests of polluters and developers. It is now vital that concerned Texans weigh in and let their members of Congress and EPA officials know that we should support a truly sustainable Superfund that uses the best clean-up methods possible to protect the environment and public health.
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.
Contact your members of Congress about opposing cuts to the Superfund budget and other critical programs, such as environmental justice and climate change research.
Contact EPA officials about finalizing their decision to fully remove one of the most toxic Superfund sites in the Houston area, the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.