Environmentalists say Houston’s new recycling contract is good for the city, but success won’t come easy

Plastic bottles brought in for recycling are seen at a recycling center in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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In an editorial in the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Program Director for the Texas Campaign for the Environment wrote the new recycling contract for the Bayou City would be a workable long-term solution to reducing the amounts of waste sent to the city’s landfills.

Rosanne Barone explained she agrees with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s assessment of how the contract could be a “win for Houstonians and the environment.”

Under the 20-year contract with Spanish waste disposal company FCC, which is scheduled to go into effect during 2019, the firm will be permitted to pick up materials from the green recycling bins used by Houston residents citywide.

The new contract and program will also allow residents to put glass containers and plastic grocery store bags into their recycling bins, as the company is reportedly building a new recycling plant and looking to employ up to 140 workers.

RELATED: Houston Approves Recycling Deal to Allow Glass, Plastic Bag Pickup

Barone further said she believes recycling is “something we have to do as we work towards to a more equitable city,” calling on expansion of Houston’s recycling program to reach a wider constituency:

“The new contract is both a tangible and symbolic commitment to the simple improvements that support a cleaner environment, while increasing our revenue and making the city more efficient. … Recycling access remains a basic service for those of us who live in houses, so why not for those who live in multifamily buildings, 40 percent of Houston’s population? Not only should we have recycling wherever we live, but also where we work and go to school.”

RELATED: Fire Started at Recycling Plant When Workers Didn’t Use Enough Water

Despite the potential upsides provided by the FCC contract, the final decision did not come without its controversy:

For one, Mayor Turner initially awarded the contract to FCC in June, replacing Houston-based Waste Management; however, City Council members called for the bids to be reopened after questions arose about the selection process.

Additionally, George Gitschel, founder of the recycling firm EcoHub, filed a lawsuit against the city in August, which claimed the city excluded his firm from the bidding process.

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