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In search for innovative ideas, Houston is among top 20 finalists for $5 million prize

In search for innovative ideas, Houston is among top 20 finalists for $5 million prize

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The grand prize winner of the challenge will receive $5 million to help jump-start the implementation of the plan. Four other winners will receive $1 million each.  Courtesy of BedandBreakfast.com
Mayor Annise Parker
The office of Mayor Annise Parker submitted a plan for "Total Reuse — One Bin for All" to Bloomberg Philanthropies for the Mayors Challenge.  Courtesy of Office of Mayor Annise Parker
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Mayor Annise Parker

Bloomberg Philanthropies has released its top 20 finalists for the Mayors Challenge, a competition for a $5 million grand prize to help with implementation of an innovative idea. And out of 305 applicant cities, Houston has made the cut for its innovation entitled "Total Reuse — One Bin for All."

That plan, submitted by the office of Mayor Annise Parker, calls for a material resource recovery and renewable energy facility — the first like it in the United States — where Bayou City residents will send everything from recyclables to food stuffs, yard trimmings to eWaste in just one garbage bin, like the good ol' days.

The project estimates that it will maximize reuse and divert 75 percent of all waste, plus make recycling easier for residents, improve air quality, save money and reduce extraction of raw materials.

 The project estimates that it will maximize reuse and divert 75 percent of all waste, plus make recycling easier for residents, improve air quality, save money and reduce extraction of raw materials.

 "I am ecstatic that we are a finalist in the Mayors Challenge," Parker said in a statement. "The Challenge tapped into Houston's innovative spirit, asking us to find new solutions to persistent problems. We are an entrepreneurial city — if you can dream it, you can achieve it here."

Other cities that made the final cut include Boston, with a plan called "Cumulus" for putting student data in a cloud system; Chicago, which wants to develop an analytics platform to share patterns and problems between city departments for faster and smarter decision-making; Indianapolis, which will foster partnerships between charter schools and traditional public schools to create high-quality school seats; and Knoxville, Tenn., which will connect people to jobs and resources to create a comprehensive urban food cycle. 

In November, a team from Houston will attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp in New York City to work with other applicants and to refine concepts before resubmitting applications in the first quarter of 2013. The $5 million grand prize winner and four additional $1 million winners will be announced in the spring. 

All applicant cities were required to have 30,000 or more residents, with selection criteria that included vision, impact, implementation ability and replicability in other cities. 

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