For a while, it appeared that Houston would soon be just about the only big city in the nation without a curbside recycling program. But on Friday afternoon, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that recycling services will continue for the next two years if Houston City Council approves an agreement he has reached with Waste Management (WM).
The new agreement has one big caveat — glass will no longer be part of the recycling program. Officials said the elimination of glass will lower processing costs for WM as it generally breaks during collection and transportation to the processing site and destroys processing equipment.
Residents can drop off glass for recycling at city-run neighborhood drop-off locations, including the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center at 5900 Westpark. It needs to be presorted by color: clear, green and brown.
Under the terms of the new contract, paper, cardboard, metal cans and plastics (except for #6) will be picked up curbside in 96-gallon green bins that will be emptied every two weeks just as they are now.
The new contract calls for a $90 per ton processing fee with a guarantee to WM of at least 75 percent of the city’s recycling stream. Turner says the two-year contract will save the city $2 million.
With the current contract set to expire March 16, Turner rejected an WM offer for a six-year contract with a cost of $95 per ton and proposed a two-year contract at $104 a ton, in the hopes that market conditions improve. Due to the drop in the price of oil, the market for recyclables has declined and WM said it was losing a lot of money under the deal set to expire.
Under the current deal, WM charges the city $65 per ton to process and resell Houston's recyclables. If proceeds from sales don't meet or exceed its costs, Waste Management absorbs the difference.
“This agreement makes good economic sense for the city and for Waste Management," Turner said. "It reaffirms our commitment to recycling, doesn’t tie the City to a long-term contract, allows Waste Management to avoid the employee layoffs that would have likely resulted from cancellation of service in Houston and provides an opportunity for potential competitors to enter the market.”
“I want to applaud the mayor and staff for working hard to find creative solutions to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement,” said Waste Management TexOma Area Vice President Don Smith. “Removing glass from the recycle stream was a painful decision but allowed the City to keep the interests of the residents of the City of Houston front and center as they worked with us to find a solution to the City’s recycling needs.”
WM has agreed to an extension of its current contract until the new proposal is considered at the next Houston City Council meeting on March 23.
Most other big cities in Texas have monthly garbage fees that range between $12 and $50 a month, but Turner has ruled out such a fee that would pay for recycling and other garbage removal costs.