Just days before the extension expired on Houston’s recycling contract with Waste Management, Mayor Sylvester Turner brokered a deal with the corporation to continue service uninterrupted.
The new contract, which will be presented to council next week, is a two-year $90-per-ton deal – only $5-per-ton less than the previously proposed contract. According to Turner, the deal is expected to save Houstonians $2 million.
All of this trash talk begs the question of what happened to the One Bin for All program that former Mayor Annise Parker failed to initiate?
While in office, Parker submitted a proposal and was awarded a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant for her proposal. One Bin for All, a much-needed recycling alternative, would have presumably reduced costs for Houston’s taxpayers by reducing the workforce and collection hours for trash pickup. The program also included a $100 million privately funded recycling center and an additional grant for $50,000 from IBM. The program was supposed to be in full effect late 2015 or early 2016.
According to a report by the Baker Institute for Public Policy, the One Bin for All program would “revolutionize the city for years to come and hopefully save the city some money.” In light of the increasing costs of recycling services any option that would save the city money is certainly welcome.
Since recycling and trash are currently picked up separately the one-bin option would prove to be economical because it would reduce the need for multiple solid waste pickups at each household. Houston currently owns the trucks and the bins, so partnering with a private company to build and manage the recycling center would be more affordable than contracting with another solid waste company to manage a citywide recycling program. In it’s proposal for the grant the city noted that One Bin for All would result in 5,000 fewer garbage pick up trips and 600,000 fewer miles travelled each year.
After 40 years of costly recycling, Americans as a whole still only recycle about 30 percent of their trash. Increased service costs are burdening cities, especially ones such as Houston, which are dealing with major fiscal constraints. It is time to further explore the public-private partnership option that will not only increase the amount that Houstonians recycle, but reduce the cost that taxpayers pay to do so.
With everything on the table to be cut to close the upcoming budget gap and growing deficit, the One Bin for All plan should, at least, be revisited to see if it is a cost effective way to move forward with Houston’s affordable recycling goals.