Bayou City

Soon, Houstonians Can Start Putting Beer Bottles Back in Recycling Bins

Starting next year, you can finally stop filling your kitchen garbage cans with glass wine and beer bottles and start saving the Earth just a little bit more by putting them back in their proper place: the recycling bin.

That's thanks to a deal the city administration has reached with a new recycling and solid waste service provider, which Mayor Sylvester Turner announced at City Hall yesterday. The city has locked in a $1.6 million-a-year contract with FCC Environmental for the next 15 years, compared to its current $2.9 million contract with Waste Management — one that doesn't include glass. Turner called it a big win for Houston taxpayers.

"The new rate structure represents significant savings to Houston taxpayers," he said. "Even in the worst market conditions that we experienced like last year, we will never pay more to recycle than we do for solid waste disposal."

The City of Houston cut glass from the green bins last year after a combination of a market downturn and a budget crisis led Turner to reject two pricey contract renewal proposals from Waste Management — leaving the city's entire recycling program in jeopardy. For a while, the possibility that Houston would have to stop recycling completely was on the table — until Turner struck a deal at the last minute with Waste Management to keep recycling alive. Just without glass, which is the most expensive product for Waste Management to process.

Now, FCC is not only giving Houston a cheaper processing rate — $87 per ton compared to WM's $90 — it's also restoring glass to the city's recycling repertoire. As part of the deal, FCC is moving its United States headquarters to Houston from the Woodlands, and is building a 250,000-square-foot facility, creating an estimated 100 factory jobs that will also be available to homeless Houstonians and people with criminal records who are down on their luck finding work. In addition, the city is taking out a $2.4 million loan from FCC to purchase eight new solid waste trucks — at an 11 percent interest rate. It's unclear why that is exactly a win for taxpayers, but Turner repeatedly stressed that reporters need to look at the whole contract and package deal, not single out individual items.

The new operation won't kick in until September 2018. In the meantime, you can still recycle your glass at any of the 19 drop-off locations — large bins managed by Waste Management and glass recycler Strategic Materials.

Turner thanked Strategic Materials for chipping in to fund ten of these locations at no cost to the city over the past year. We were waiting for him to thank the eight-year-old and several twentysomethings who started their own glass pick-up service called Hauling Glass, essentially doing the city's job for it. For a small price, they bring your bins to Strategic Materials so that you don't have to. According to their website, they've since recycled 73 tons of glass.
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn