City of Houston Pushes Recycling Program

The city of Houston has long had a recycling program, but the number of households using the program drops every month. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the city is pushing a renewed emphasis on their recycling program.

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There are 262 neighborhoods representing 162,000 households enrolled in the City of Houston's recycling program. Solid Waste Management Director Buck Buchanan says there was higher participation 16 years ago when the program started than there is today.

"And our problem is that we drive past those 162,000 homes every time we run our routes and fewer and fewer and fewer and fewer of them are putting out the green bins. I mean, some routes you can run at 30 miles an hour. And that's a waste of resources."

Houston Mayor Bill White announced the renewed recycling effort at an Environmental Summit sponsored by the city. He says the city quit reminding households about recycling and the numbers dropped off. So he's implementing an aggressive communications campaign to encourage community participation.

"And we're also going to be measuring results, we're going to create additional incentives. If a neighborhood wants to say it's recycling but it isn't really very much, then we want to take those recycling trucks and take them somewhere else. If a neighborhood does -- is in the top group of recyclers or is in the most improved category, then we want to make some investments in those neighborhoods."

Higher participation will also save money for the city. The more the city recycles, the lower it costs per ton to process those materials. Higher collections also translate to more revenue for the city when it resells the recycled materials. Buchanan says they also hope to expand the list of recyclable items.

"You know, we caught a lot of flak when the glass market in Houston fell apart and we were spending a lot of money collecting glass and then having to pay a hundred dollars a ton to ship it away to receive five dollars in revenue. So, hopefully glass is back in the picture, but we're not ready yet. Don't recycle glass at the curbside yet."

Right now, participating neighborhoods can recycle plastic, aluminum and tin containers, paper products and used motor oil. The city will promote the program through newspaper and water bill inserts, door hangers and community education programs. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio news.

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