By Laura Lyles Reagan
Plastic is bad – paper is good!
Collecting aluminum cans pays!
Dumping motor oil is a criminal offense!
Never use Styrofoam! It takes 500 years to breakdown in a landfill.
These were things we learned in school when recycling first came of age. Recycling has come a long way in the last decade. But this progress meets a dead end if consumers aren’t aware of how it affects their recycling efforts.
Here’s what Houstonians need to know about recycling in the Bayou City. It’s up to you to put the info to good use!
Proposals are in the works for all in one bins.
As the fourth most populous city in the United States, Houston has reason to consider new recycling plans. The City of Houston is considering all in one bins where residents can dump garbage, recyclables and compost in one container, and the containers be sorted automatically at a waste facility. Proposals for technology that can accomplish this without increasing greenhouse gas emissions are being reviewed.
Plastics, including grocery bags, can be recycled these days.
Types of plastics are numbered by recycling experts, for example plastic caps are plastic #2 and #4, requiring different machinery and processes to breakdown. According to the City of Houston website, http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/recycling-faq.html, you may recycle your plastic grocery bags at the Westpark Recycling Center, Environmental Service Centers or a local grocery store where plastic bags are accepted.
Paper, perceived as environmentally friendly, is actually more complicated to recycle than you might think. Shredding paper reduces the quality and subsequently the value of the paper. Shredding paper turns it from high grade (letterhead and printer paper) to mixed grade, which includes telephone books and magazines.
Paper food containers pose another problem.
Your pizza box may have a recycling symbol on it, but the grease may be an issue for recycling machinery. Houston’s curbside service asks that you reduce it to 3 x 3 squares. But a more creative solution may be to add it to your home composting bin and reuse it in your own garden.
Many liquids can be handled in Houston.
Used motor oil is also accepted when placed in its original container or an empty plastic 1-gallon milk or water bottle. Oil must be placed to the side of the cart/bin for collection. The Westpark Consumer Recycling Center will accept the same items as the Curbside Recycling Program with the addition of glass bottles and jars, anti-freeze, latex paint, and car batteries.
Even Styrofoam is recyclable.
Today, Styrofoam (Plastic #6) can be recycled with special machinery. Houston has two centers that accept these materials: the Westpark Recycling Center and ESC South. But send it to the landfill, and it will, in fact, take half a millennium to decompose.
Reducing & Reusing Tips
No recycling program works more effectively than reducing waste and reusing or re-purposing items as appropriate.
Reducing waste can be fun and healthy. Parents can play a pivotal role by changing their family culture to one of reducing waste through these simple suggestions.
- Buy a stainless steel water bottle for every family member. Bling them with notions of your choice as a family art project. While decorating them, you can discuss how plastic water bottles are wasteful. You can even help them do the math.
- Start a home composting bin, and, in time, plant a tree using the compost as fertilizer.
- Go paperless on all your accounts. Your daily mail call will be reduced too. Let your kids know about the change you made.
- Cut up old clothes for cleaning rags instead of using paper towels. Get the kids involved by having them cut the rags into fun shapes.
- Investigate the use of natural cleaners. Kids might enjoy making the mixtures and actually help with the cleaning. Several websites can give parents ideas.
From food to diversity to business to entertainment, Houston consistently ranks as one of the most livable, most cool cities in America. With a little more reducing, reusing, and recycling, we can add “most sustainable city” to our city’s list of bragging rights.
Laura Lyles Reagan is a social issues and family freelance writer. She is the proud mom of two socially conscious daughters. She can be reached for comment or parent coaching sessions through her website, www.heart2heartparents.com.
Curbside Automated Recycling Program
Curbside recycling is collected on a biweekly basis to reduce the number of trips into the neighborhoods, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Biweekly service is also more cost-efficient for the department by ensuring the bins are full on collection day.
Businesses or residents may call 3-1-1 to request brochures or to request a presentation.
Houston Curbside Recycling Program Notes
The Houston Curbside Recycling Program accepts newspaper, magazines, color ad inserts, office paper, mail, telephone books, tin, aluminum, empty aerosol cans, plastic bottles and jugs (marked with a #1 – #5, and #7, recycling symbol). More information can be found at, http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/recycling-faq.html
- You may place recyclable materials together in the same bin/cart.
- Overflow materials can be put in a separate paper grocery bag and placed on top or on the side of your green bin (18-gallon bin only).
- Corrugated cardboard must be broken down into 3 x 3 foot squares.
- Used motor oil is also accepted when placed in its original container or an empty plastic 1-gallon milk or water bottle. Oil must be plachttps://www.tipsbulletin.com/homemade-floor-cleaner/ed to the side of the cart/bin for collection.
- Glass bottles are accepted in the Automated Recycling program only (96-gallon cart).
- Plastics #1 – 5 and 7 are accepted in this program