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What Happened To Houston’s ‘One Bin For All’ Program?

The city’s latest progress report on the recycling concept doesn’t have much to offer.


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Chaz Miller

It has been almost three years since the city won a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the One Bin For All concept, which would let Houstonians throw all their waste in one bin, to be separated for recycling later.

Former Mayor Annise Parker tried to start the project, but it never took off under her watch.

On Dec. 31, Parker's last work day, the city released a 10-page progress report.

It only says that contract negotiations for a sorting facility are ongoing and that there is currently a proposal on the table that would be privately financed. The city is not saying who that contractor is.

"You've got to wonder whether this is a project that the city is really committed to – why they would wait until the very last minute to release that report," said Melanie Scruggs, Houston program director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Her group has always opposed One Bin For All. They doubt the city can achieve its goal of recycling up to 75 percent of waste because regular trash would contaminate some of the recyclables when they are put in the same bin.

They also fear the new facility would contribute to air pollution.

At this point at least, Mayor Sylvester Turner is not trying to move the project along.

"I am almost singly focused on two things," Turner said when asked about One Bin. "And that's infrastructure in relation to this pothole problem and then getting our arms around our financial challenges."

The fact that this project is dragging along is good news for Scruggs.

"We are optimistic that the proposal will be shelved," she said. "The city's current curbside recycling program was expanded last year and is now in all neighborhoods for the first time, where people have the opportunity to put their recyclables in a second bin."

She said the group continues to advocate a zero-waste goal and even calls for a three-bin program, which would add a separate bin for compost.

That is already happening in Austin and San Antonio.