These are responses recorded during interviews by Charles Kuffner, a local blogger for “Off the Kuff” and Chron.com. You can listen to the full interviews and check out Kuffner’s 2015 election page here.
Charles Kuffner: “One of the things Mayor Parker has done is to extend curbside recycling to all the neighborhoods and households that participate in the City of Houston’s Solid Waste program. There’s also been an exploration of a proposal called ‘One Bin For All,’ in which we throw everything in one bin, it would go to a plant for processing, the idea being to increase the amount of waste that is diverted away from landfills. It’s pioneer technology; it’s still kind of a work in progress. The City has a couple of bids for this under evaluation but it’s fairly clear that the next mayor is going to have to make the decision one way or the other on this. What’s your view of the ‘One Bin’ proposal?”
Adrian Garcia: “Well, I know that there’s a lot of concern as to whether or not this is going to be a viable option or not, so one, I look to study it and have people at the table to give me some perspective on it. But look, I was a big proponent for recycling. You’ve got to remember, in some of our early budget sessions at council I pointed to our trash cans around City Hall chambers, and I told the mayor, after a whole day of budgeting, look what’s in our trash bin. What was in there? Plastic bottles. Aluminum cans. I was pushing simply to have recycling receptacles in the City Hall chambers so we can demonstrate to our citizens the value and importance of recycling. I am a big advocate for not having to need future landfills, but I want to make sure that the approaches that we take are reasonable to ensure that we are accomplishing the ability to recycle and to prevent disproportionate growth in our landfill needs. I’m looking forward to sitting down with people. This is something I am actually very interested and passionate about, so I’ll take a look at it, and right now it looks like there is some concern about whether one bin approach is the right one.”
Bill King: “I really haven’t talked to anybody who thinks ‘One Bin for All’ will work. It’s sort of just one of those odd things where all the environmentalists are against it, the industry people are against it. I haven’t really found anybody that’s for it. And I also think that what may have made that work economically was if you had higher commodity prices, and we seem to be headed into some really low commodity prices. So, I frankly think it’s dead; I don’t think it’s going to be revived by anybody in the next administration… I think we need to encourage as much recycling as we can. It’s going to be a challenge if you’ve got low commodity prices. It’s just not nearly as economic if you don’t have that. And yet we’ve got land in every direction for hundreds of miles where you can carry this stuff off and dump it out there.”
Chris Bell: “I’d look at what we’ve learned and where it really stands. There’s a great deal of concern that the technology and the folks that are presently in the mix aren’t really in a position to accomplish what we want, and I think as mayor you have to go back and look and determine if we really are accomplishing what we set out to do, and if not, we probably have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how we can continue to move in that direction. I certainly thought it was a worthy goal, but we get letters here just about every day asking us to look at it very seriously because there’s a lot of folks who have looked at it very closely and just don’t believe the technology is really there to accomplish what we’re trying to do.”
Marty McVey: “Well, I’ve studied this issue and I think that it needs more study, quite frankly, because there is a contamination factor on the recycling. And if you have “One Bin for All” – I have not seen the solution to this that I’m satisfied with – if you’re putting all types of waste in one container then there is a contamination factor and I believe that is 20-30% waste factor in the recycling process, so if we have to clean it and we’ve got a waste factor that we can’t use, then I don’t know that’s it’s really a good thing. There’s not been enough studies on this issue. I think in the short term we need to separate and continue that process. I don’t want to get the city into a situation where we’re jumping to the thing that’s available to us. Quite frankly the proposal that I’ve seen from the City of Houston – at least one that was proposed to the city – it was pretty vague, it was pretty new. The company doesn’t have any real long term testing on this. I would be very hesitant to put the city in a situation where it’s not proven technology.”
Steve Costello: “So before I get to the ‘One Bin for All’ I just want to give you a personal experience. Ever since I’ve had the 96 gallon green can, the amount of trash that I actually put in my black can is a third of what it used to be. So, it’s good to see that we’re actually successfully recycling. And yet, most people don’t know that half of the population lives in apartments, and yet, we do not have a recycling program for apartment complexes. We don’t have a recycling program for commercial and light industrial facilities. I would like to see us pursue that first and to see how beneficial we could be in recycling. The issue of ‘One Bin for All,’ since I’m a an engineer I am extremely fascinated by the science. But most municipalities don’t want to be on the front side of a bell curve. They’d much rather be on the back side of the bell curve with proven technology. There a lot of recyclers that believe that ‘One Bin for All’ will diminish the value of the recycling product because it becomes a dirty product. You hear both sides of the story. I am also concerned about whether or not we have a viable business that can build the facility on behalf of the city. The plan is that they build the facility, they take care of all the recycling, and the city just guarantees the volume of recycling or volume of trash to it. So I’ll be interested to see how that goes, but again, the science to it is still kind of pioneering and I would be surprised if the city went and did something like that.”
Sylvester Turner: “Well, I certainly will take a look at it. There’s a lot a question as to whether the technology is available to do what has been represented. I think there’s a strong desire for more recycling, to expand it beyond where it is, to have more trash and recycling bins. I think we certainly need that. On the residential side, multifamily side, commercial side. I think there’s probably universal agreement for that. I think Austin’s got to step up on that end. So I certainly want to see that happen. Now whether or not the ‘One Bin’ proposal is something that we should do, the jury is still out on that end.”