City council ponders trashing curbside recycling

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HOUSTON, TX-- While folks were enjoying all the tasty local food served at Houston City Hall's farmers market Wednesday, something much less tasteful was on their minds-- the prospect of city council putting an end to curbside recycling.

"The City of Houston has invested millions of dollars since 2009 investing in expanding the curbside recycling program, and it was only completed last year," explains Melanie Scruggs with the Texas Campaign for the Environment. Scruggs sat in on the council meeting Wednesday, "Several of the council members expressed concerns about the cost to the city and some council members suggested we should just abandon recycling altogether."

Those included Mike Knox and Greg Travis. Travis explains his concerns, "It used to be profitable for the city. We were actually making money on it, but now it's actually gonna be costing us to the tune of about $4 to 5 million a year. So I'm actually looking to maybe suspend it... not suspend the recycling, but the curbside pickup."

Janean Partridge who works downtown thinks that would be a big mistake, "I use curbside recycling all the time. It's something that I've integrated into my daily life."

Donna Dikden says it more than just convenience, "It's our environment that's at stake. Whether or not it's profitable to the city, that shouldn't be one of the considerations."

What are some of the considerations they should be looking at?

"If you make it less convenient, you get less recycling," says Ebonee Mathis, who is concerned with sustainability.

Jackie Young with the San Jacinto River Coalition says it also doesn't make sense job-wise. "Every 10,000 tons of waste that goes to a landfill creates one job at that landfill," she notes, "For that same amount of waste, if it were to be sorted and separated properly, that would create 10 jobs in the recycling industry."

There is also the issue of environmental injustice. "The landfills in the city of Houston are in non-white neighborhoods," says Benjamin Franklin with the Safe Communities Alliance, "and so you're asking these neighborhoods that already deal with disproportionate waste to take more trash that's not theirs."

City council was supposed to decide on the fate of curbside recycling Wednesday morning but tabled the vote until next week. We'll see if they take the advice printed right inside the lids of many of their big, green bins: 'Recycle Today, Rewards Tomorrow.'

If not, we may all lose.