Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday that the city has come up with a plan to recycle more glass— but don't get too excited: You still can't put your beer bottles into your green curbside bin.
The plan is nothing too new — the city is just increasing the number of drop-off locations where you can haul your own glass and dump it into a large Dumpster-like bin. Currently, there are nine places in the city where you can do this, provided by Waste Management. Now, the city has partnered with glass recyclers Strategic Materials Inc., which will provide an additional ten bins at no cost to the city. Any profits will go to Strategic Materials — which is, according to CEO Denis Suggs, the largest glass recycling company in North America, ironically headquartered in a city that no longer offers curbside glass recycling.
Suggs said his company has 100 employees in Houston, so it's no wonder Suggs told the city Strategic Materials would do Houston a favor with these new bins: Perhaps the workers had gotten a little bored.
“The goal over the next year and a half is to come forth with a recycling program that is even better than the one we've had in the past, but for right now, we're just trying to beef up glass recycling,” Turner said.
The city cut glass from its recycling repertoire in March after a contract with Waste Management expired. The new contracts that Waste Management proposed were too expensive for a city that was undergoing a financial crisis and handling a $162 million budget shortfall, Turner said then. So at the last minute, Turner struck a deal with Waste Management, agreeing to a two-year contract with one little caveat — no more glass in the curbside bins.
Waste Management officials explained that glass was the most expensive item for the company to process, and sometimes the glass ripped up its equipment, shattering before it could even be processed at all.
Still, no one — especially local environmental groups — was happy about getting rid of the glass. It had made up roughly one-fifth of the city's recycling tonnage, according to data from the city's solid waste department.
Shortly after hearing about the city's decision to cut glass, though, a young boy grew upset with the city, and wanted to do something about it.
In April, eight-year-old Tristan Berlanga and his older sister's boyfriend, David Krohn, launched a small business they called Hauling Glass. A couple of times a week, Berlanga, Krohn and a few of Krohn's buddies pick up glass at dozens of residences who sign up for their service. They drop it off at a warehouse that Berlanga's dad owns, then ultimately hand it over to Strategic Materials for processing. It's just $10 a month to sign up. Just a few weeks after launching, they had more than 200 takers.
Although Houston ultimately plans to bring curbside glass recycling back to residents once the two-year contract is up, this eight-year-old appears to have the city beat for now.
Mayor Turner announced only two of the drop-off locations, which will open this weekend; the others will be announced next week:
Sharpstown Park - 6600 Harbor Town Drive, accessible during park hours
Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center - 2208 Washington Avenue, accessible 24 hours