Houston may not ultimately implement its controversial One Bin for All system, a plan that calls for residents to toss garbage and recyclables in a single curbside cart for later sortation.
Speaking on a panel at last week’s WasteCon conference in Grapevine, Texas, Houston’s director of solid waste said the city remains “in the midst of evaluation,” and he said Houston continues to move forward on a separate, single-stream recycling collection rollout that would be bolstered if the city decides to table the one-bin approach.
“We know the technology is out there [for one-bin sorting], and we know there are concerns in the market about the quality of the material,” said Harry Hayes, Houston’s chief operating officer and solid waste chief. “That is going to play into the decision. If it’s one-bin or advancing single-stream, we will grow recycling in Houston.”
Houston’s consideration of a one-bin system has grabbed the attention of many industry members over the last two years. If such a plan does become a reality, Houston will be by far the largest municipality in North America to adopt the all-in-one strategy and would follow in the footsteps of Indianapolis and Montgomery, Alabama.
Houston is the nation’s fourth largest city, and Hayes said the city provides solid waste service to 423,000 households.
In March of 2013, Houston was awarded $1 million from the Bloomberg Development Mayors Challenge to move ahead on the one-bin initiative, which would necessitate a materials recovery facility that can separate recyclable materials from waste. Such facilities are sometimes called dirty MRFs.
In July of this year, the city announced it had closed a request for proposals period for One Bin for All and noted it had received five bids from entities interested in helming the program.
In his remarks last week, however, Hayes said the city is not obligated to choose any of the proposals, and he said he and his staff see themselves as general investigators of the feasibility and economic viability of the single-bin approach. The knowledge they glean in the process, he said, could be shared with other municipalities mulling their own options.
“Whether our city goes to one-bin or not, we will put together the key decision points everyone else will use,” he said. “There’s an unbelievable amount of work we’ve done. The bedrock will be there for all solid waste systems around the country.”