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Explore, Enjoy and Protect

ONE-BIN-FOR-ALL? WHAT WE NEED IS A ZERO-WASTE POLICY.

By Melanie Scruggs, Program Director Texas Campaign for the Environment

We believe the One-Bin-for-All proposal by the City of Houston is a mistake. Problems include cost, air pollution, and the likelihood of low levels of recycling.

Gasification, proposed by the City, is an incineration technology that produces dioxins and other air pollutants that are damaging to public health. The companies that have bid on One-Bin-for-All have a history of waste incineration. We believe this proposal is a scheme to bring waste incineration to Texas, where we do not have any incinerators for municipal solid waste.

Texas has avoided waste-to-energy schemes because, aside from the pollution threat, they are extremely expensive. Houston currently pays about $25 per ton to dispose of its waste; a City of San Antonio feasibility study in 2012 estimated that waste-to-energy costs ranged from 120 to 160 dollars per ton. Recycling is far better at creating jobs, and reducing raw material separation; it is better for the environment than waste-to-energy, or as we like to call it, a waste OF energy.

The City says that the $100+ million facility would reach "75% recycling" rates, but other mixed waste processing facilities in the country only get 25% recycling because mixing trash and recyclables contaminates recyclables, so no machine or low wage labor force can separate them out. The proposal calls for tax exempt financing and 380 agreements, and our organization believes it is a huge mistake to spend tax dollars investing in this kind of dirty, air polluting technology, when for a similar size investment Houston could have one of the greatest recycling programs in the world.

The Mayor has said that by the end of her term, she would expand the current single-stream recycling program to every household in the City service area. In April the City says that they will have finally achieved expansion of the recycling program or "big, green bins" to 75% of all households. Last year, less than half of the city's households had recycling bins. Since the City only collects from houses, we have no accurate data on how many apartments and businesses have recycling through private contracts. Without any incentives for apartment owners or businesses to provide recycling, we estimate that the percentage is extremely low. Our organization would like the city to create a Zero Waste master plan that would create standards or incentives for businesses and apartments to have recycling. Tax exempt institutions should also recycle. We could also create an organics collection program that would divert food waste from landfills and lower greenhouse gases such as methane which are released from landfills. Other cities in Texas have already started collecting organic waste for composting and biofuel production, and we think Houston should consider these alternatives instead of going through with a boondoggle like "One Bin for All."

We have more information on our website and links to email the Mayor and City Council here: http://www.texasenvironment.org/local_campaigns_houston.cfm.


Last updated:  04/01/2013.   Content © 2013-2013 by the Sierra Club.