Incentive to Recycle

Houston expands its automated recycling program to an additional 54-thousand households this week. As Laurie Johnson reports — residents who participated in the first five months of the automated program doubled the amount they recycle.

The city is operating on the theory that if you give people more space, they’ll fill it. Which is why thousands of residents across the city will get huge 96-gallon containers to hold all their recyclable products.

Houston’s Solid Waste Director Harry Hayes says in the first five months of the program, they diverted 4.4 million pounds of waste from going into landfills.

“We are the appropriate stewards of our cities. Our cities are clean and therefore we’re doing the things necessary to ensure that beyond our leadership in the City of Houston, we’re handing off the same cities that we inherit and hopefully they’re going to be in even better shape.”

To get people to fill up those big green bins, the city has a deal with a program called RecycleBank. It’s a bit like a frequent flyer program: the more you recycle, the more points you receive that can be redeemed for gift cards and products.

Mayor Annise Parker says they hope it will intice people to recycle more.

“You’re doing the right thing, you’re saving the city money, you’re doing the right thing for the environment and you get a benefit. On Monday morning, when these new bins go out, then we’ll have 76,000 households with the automated recycling. Now our goal is to make sure that every household in Houston that receives city trash service also receives city recycling service.”

press conference

Houston paid for the additional 54,000 recycling bins with stimulus funds. Solid Waste officials say they’ve saved $56,000 in landfill disposal costs.



Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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