Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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Taking out the trash, Houston style

The City of Houston, America’s fourth largest city, not known as a “green” city, is slowly adding traditional, curbside recycling to some neighborhoods. I see green recycling bins and black waste bins on the curb as I drive about.

One Bin for All (OBFA)?

Here’s a new wrinkle: the City’s waste department recently announced a proposal to commingle trash and recycled materials in a single waste bin. With OBFA, everything goes into the bin, with recyclables sorted out later. The City thought that OBFA would promote recycling. My take? This is the antithesis of recycling; it is like taking out the trash on any ordinary “trash day!” Now the City is rethinking its options.

Image: Rubbermaid

Image: Rubbermaid

… or Segregate Waste from Recyclables?

Our household has recycled for years, at our own expense. Our suburban subdivision sits within the City of Houston limits. The community association contracts trash hauling and recycling services to a private contractor, with partial reimbursement from the City of Houston. We pay about $3/month for recycling services, in addition to Community Association dues. It’s optional, and it’s worth it.

It is easy to toss paper, plastic and glass in the recycling bins–to segregate it from waste–and place the bins outside once a week. I wish the City required all citizens and businesses to recycle; it is amazing how little garbage we generate each week when we recycle! I hope that our subdivision moves to the larger, covered, wheeled recycling bins soon; with 55 inches of rain per year, it’s easier to manage recyclables in a covered bin than in the small, open totes.

The Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has an outreach program and offers definitions, tips and apps for plastics recycling at RecycleYourPlastics.org.

I’d like to hear your thoughts.
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If it’s Thursday, it must be recycling day

I woke up this morning–another Thursday, so it’s household recycling day. We put out paper, plastic and glass in the designated recycling bins each week. Our remaining “garbage” fills only one trash bag a week. The sad thing is, we live in Houston–the fourth largest city in the U.S.–and only 22% of households recycle. Seattle, San Francisco and other progressive cities lead the list, with about two-thirds of the population recycling. Chicago and Detroit are at the bottom of the list.

I read in the Houston Chronicle this week that the City of Houston Department of Solid Waste Management is evaluating the possibility of building a large, state-of-the art recycling plant. This would save the City plenty of money, as well as plenty of landfill space. Other, more landlocked cities do not have the luxury of dumping easily recycled materials in landfills.

RecycleRecycling is easy if you make a small effort. The household pickup each week is simple. For $3/month, you get the recycling bin and set it out by the garage on Thursdays. If more neighbors recycled, the cost could go down.

When I purchased a new smartphone last year, I sold the old one to the eBay recycling service for $60. I got a free shipping label and received payment quickly. A few weeks ago, I turned in a 25-year-old laser printer for a $50 rebate on a new, energy-efficient printer. This week I took two old cell phones and a laptop computer to a retail store for recycling.

Local papers and bulletins have notices about community recycling efforts. On October 24, the (Houston) Bay Area Community Advisory Panel (BAYCAP) holds its monthly meeting at the Armand Bayou Nature Center. The topic is the interactions of the 27 plants in the Bay Area, and their recycling efforts. On November 10, the Johnson Space Center Contractors will sponsor free electronic recycling.  Materials will be recycled properly and in compliance with e-waste regulations.

Let’s think about recycling as a lifestyle issue, not a trash issue.