Houston Faces Opposition to One Bin Trash Plan

by | Jul 9, 2014

One bin for allHouston’s One Bin for All trash plan, touted by the city as the next evolution in recycling, may be facing some opposition by a coalition of groups who do not agree with the program’s proposed environmental value.

Houston’s One Bin for All plan would allow Houston residents to place all trash, recyclables, and compostables in one bin, which it says would provide for a much higher rate of resource recovery.

The city cites the goals of the project to include significantly increasing diversion and decreasing the amount of waste sent to landfills, allowing all residents to simply put their discarded materials into one bin (excluding heavy trash, e-waste and household hazardous waste), protecting air quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by organic materials in landfills, stimulating community interest in and responsibility for reducing, reusing and recycling, and creating jobs.

However, Zero Waste Houston, a coalition including Texas Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club Houston Regional Group, Houston Peace and Justice Center, and Dr. Robert Bullard, a founder of GreenAction, have come together in opposition to the city’s plan. On July 10 they plan to release a report titled “It’s Smarter to Separate,” at a press conference near Houston City Hall.

Zero Waste Houston asserts that gasification has never worked on trash in the US, and that it creates air pollution similar to more traditional mass burn incinerators. They point out that single bin technologies have never achieved the 75 percent recycling rate sought by the Mayor’s plan because of high contamination rates.

The group is proposing that Houston instead adopt a single-stream approach, expanding the use of large green bins for each home and focusing on education to improve recycling over time. The group also points out that other cities are implementing zero waste plans successfully.

Houston’s One Bin for All plan was the winner of a $1 million prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the Mayors Challenge, a contest rewarding innovation in American cities.

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