Look for the city-approved label
Don't put your leaves in paper bags: The city won't pick them up
Like many Houston residents, our household tries to be conscientious about following the ordinance that requires all yard trimmings be placed in compostable bags. But those city-approved bags are so flimsy that we recently gobbled up the large biodegradable paper bags at our neighorhood Kroger as an alternative.
We filled the paper bags, clearly labeled "Lawn & Garden Waste Bag," with leaves and set them in front of the house on our regular garbage day on Monday.
They're still there.
Even though the paper bags are located right next to the plastic biodegradable bags on the grocery shelves, I have learned that, when it comes to yard clippings, not all bags are created equal.
Edward Zilton, staff analyst in the city's solid waste/recycling division, says residents must use city-approved bags and none of those are paper.
Here's why: During a pilot program using paper bags, residents were slipping in non-compostable objects — even such things as engine parts and other metal objects — that broke drown the processing equipment, Zilton said. With see-through plastic bags, it's easier for sanitation workers to spot such objects.
So even though Kroger and other stores market all types of garbage bags, workers will only pick up city-approved biodegradable plastic bags. The city of Houston seal —the most identifiable feature is a railroad train — inside three dancing arrows is stamped on each approved box.
"Look for it," Zilton says. "That's the No. 1 distinctive thing."
While Zilton is pleased that 95 percent of Houston households are using the approved biodegradable plastic bags for yard trimmings, he acknowledges complaints that the bags are too flimsy. He says manufacturers are creating a thicker biodegradable bag (1.25 millileter thick vs. the current 1.0 millileter) that should be in stores next month.
To help keep the bags from tearing he suggests removing twigs from lawn trimming and bundling them separately.
Lesson learned. But what am I going to do with those oversized Kroger paper bags?