Will Houston's 'One Bin for All' program really revolutionalize recycling?

March 15, 2013 4:32:41 PM PDT
Houston is being awarded a million-dollar prize for an idea that some say will revolutionize the way we recycle trash in Houston. But how will it work and why do some environmentalists think this is a bad idea?

The city's recycling drop-off centers may be busy, but it's a tiny percentage of the city's waste that could be put to better use.

Mayor Annise Parker wants to work toward a process where all your trash is dumped into one bin and the city, with a private partner, would do the sorting for you.

"This doesn't mean anyone has to stop recycling if they're already doing it in that way," said Mayor Parker. "But for the city of Houston, we'll be able to provide solid waste pickup, where we do the work for you."

But some environmental activists are questioning the much touted 'One Bin for All' idea.

"It increases contamination rates," said Tyson Sowell with the Texas Campaign for the Environment. "When you put in paper with coffee grounds, that paper's going to get contaminated, and there are very limited markets for that and it drives the value down."

Sowell isn't alone. Mark Austin, who runs a small non-profit recycling center, worries a one-bin approach would decrease reusable materials and hurt local recyclers.

"All the stuff that we have here that we turn into products, all helps our local economy," he said. "I'm not sure throwing your recyclables in with your garbage is going to do that."

But Mayor Parker says this program will make recycling easier for all Houstonians and modern technology will put Houston on the cutting edge of recycling nationwide.

"It's really game changing in terms of how you view recycling and solid waste," she said.

The plan is for a private company that to do the work. City council is expected to see proposals in the coming months.
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