Houston leads way … in recycling

Recycling hasn’t yet reached way-of-life status in Texas.

Too bad. It should, given all the material we waste every hour each day. It costs lots of money to make containers from scratch; it costs a lot of trees to make all that paper that ends up in the trash bin.

Enter, Texas’s largest city, Houston, which is considering a plan to increase dramatically its recycling program.

Houston, we may have a solution.


Houston might start doing away with the program that requires residents and business owners to separate their recyclable material. The idea is to just toss all the recyclable stuff into a single bin and let the city pick it up and sort it out. The plan is going to cost millions of dollars to implement, according to the Texas Tribune. It also carries some risk to the employees hired to sort the material, some of which might contain hazardous material, such as chemical-based liquids.

Houston was awarded a $1 million grant from a foundation created by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That was the prize for the city’s bold new recycling plan. Some environmentalists are concerned, according to the Tribune, that a non-sorting program might discourage residents from considering what they’re tossing aside.

Houston’s population of more than 2.2 million residents hasn’t yet gotten the recycling bug. Only a small percentage of residents recycle there. The idea under consideration is intended to boost that number significantly. Austin — one of the few hotbeds of environmental awareness in Texas — only registers a 24 percent recycling rate among its 800,000 residents, the Tribune reports.

What about Amarillo? Pardon me for laughing, but we aren’t in the game. The city used to have Dumpsters stationed around town for folks to toss paper. The city gave up on that program because officials had grown tired of people tossing non-recyclable trash into the containers. It wasn’t worth their time or trouble to maintain the program. So, the Dumpsters were removed.

Beaumont, where I used to live, had a pretty good curbside recycling program years ago. Residents would put plastic and aluminum containers into a bin, along with newsprint. The recycling truck would pick it up outside of your home and send it off to be recycled. The program didn’t last, but it was worth the proverbial college try.

I’m hopeful Houston can pull this new no-sort program off.

It might be quite an irony that a city with no zoning laws and some of the worst air quality in the Western Hemisphere could develop a solid waste recycling program that saves energy, trees and creates a little bit of efficiency in an otherwise wasteful world.

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