New recycling plan may mean more taxes

City of Houston says that it will allow recycling from its current 17 percent recycled to 75 percent but you may have to pay higher city taxes
February 25, 2014 8:48:54 PM PST
The city wants to do something that's never been done before anywhere in the country, recycle 75 percent of the city's trash by having you throw all your garbage in One Bin. But city officials cannot yet say if this will wind up costing you more to do it.

Houstonian recycles, like most other cities, one can for garbage, the other for recyclables like paper, cardboard, plastics and glass. However a plan pushed by Mayor Annise Parker, called "One Bin for All," could one day have you putting everything into a single garbage can. But this new idea is facing opposition from an unlikely source, a group that advocates for the environment.

"This is an important issue because it's taking us back many years in the way we handle our waste, the way that it affects our health and the way we spend money in this city. It could double, triple or even increase our waste costs higher than that," said Andrew Dobbs with the Texas campaign for the environment.

City officials dispute claims by the Texas Campaign for the Environment which says the plan will make Houston's pollution worse because some recycled materials that cannot be sold will be burned instead of buried, like they are now. But the group says the environment and taxpayers will pay a price.

We flew to northern California to see a plant similar to what Houston wants built. In the City of Roseville, all garbage on the curb is put in one bin. It winds up at a single plant where about 50 percent is recovered. Like the proposed Houston plant, this city owned facility uses mechanical and hands on techniques to separate out trash from treasure. The rest is buried in a landfill and not burned.

Still, the plant's chief engineer hopes the Houston plan works.

"I certainly hope so. I think what's being proposed is extremely exciting and I think it would be a significant shift in the way that we handle solid waste in this nation. So, I hope they can," said Eric Oddo with the Western Placer Waste Management Authority.

But the 20 year old California plant comes with a huge cost to taxpayers. Will Houstonian's also take a big tax hit?

The Houston concept is to have private companies compete for a city contract to build a $100 million recycling plant at its own cost that will incorporate all of the latest cutting edge technologies to recover recycling under one roof for the first time anywhere. Houston says that will allow it go from its current 17 percent recycled to 75 percent.

In exchange, the winning company would get an as yet undetermined percentage of the profits from the materials sold.

However, Don Pagel from the City of Houston cannot say whether this plan will even work with only private companies footing the bill.

"The RFQ process is not complete yet, and until we go through all the financial analysis on this project we cannot guarantee that," said Don Pagel with the City of Houston.

"So it could wind up costing taxpayers more?" we asked.

"I think it would be doubtful that we would ultimately implement the project if it ends up costing more," Pagel said.

So what do you think? Would you be willing to pay higher city taxes if this plan does wind up costing the city money and city leaders decide to still press ahead with it. Let us know your thoughts on our ABC13 Facebook page.

Find Brian on Facebook at ABC13BrianCollister or on Twitter at @BrianCollister

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