Are you the last Houstonian to get recycling?

Sep. 16, 2014Houston Chronicle

As we reported in this morning’s paper, all Houston households will be able to roll their recyclables to the curb in a 96-gallon green bin sometime around the end of the year, if City Council approves the purchase of about 95,000 bins on Wednesday.

For a detailed map showing who gets service today and who will get it in the coming months, scroll to the bottom of this page. And if you don’t know your council district to pick one of the links listed there, try this map.

Roughly 70 percent of homes get so-called “single-stream” recycling service today (the big green bins), which allows residents to throw all recyclables into the cart for biweekly collection. Another 5 percent of homes have small green tubs that do not take glass, and roughly a quarter of homes get no recycling service.

Each of these last two categories now will get the large green bins. Officials hope the expansion, which has been progressing incrementally since the city decided to devote all revenues from the sale of recyclables to expanding recycling, will increase Houston’s horrible 6 percent recycling rate (compared with the national average of 34 percent).

Residents in areas without curbside service or comprehensive curbside service say these hopes likely will be realized, as many of their neighbors do not go out of their way to recycle today.

Sammye Hughes of the Southwood neighborhood said some of her neighbors used to take their glass to a nearby recycling drop-off facility before it closed. Now, she and others typically just put glass in the trash.

“To go all the way out on Westpark and Fountain View, come on,” she said, referencing the city’s largest recycling depository. “I do do that sometimes when I have really huge boxes, but that’s not something I’m going to do on a regular basis. So, consequently, the things we would recycle end up in the trash, which ultimately ends up in the landfill.”

Ray Washington, a resident of Wild Heath subdivision in far south Houston, which lacks recycling service of any kind, estimated half of his neighbors drive outside the neighborhood to take their recyclables to city drop-off centers, with the other half throwing the items in the trash.

Others say the city’s recycling rate may improve as Houston is able to logically promote citywide recycling for the first time. Frank Blake, a member of Houston’s Sierra Club, said the staggered rollout of the program has made it difficult for the city to do effective public education about the importance of recycling. Once all residences are included, he said, investing in public education will make more sense.

“In the past, (education) just underlined the fact that not every community had recycling,” Blake said. “Now they can truly do that.”