Houston Works to Increase Low Recycling Rate

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Though Houston, the largest city in Texas, may have a low recycling rate at a mere 2.6 percent, the city is taking huge strides to increase that number and involve its residents in recycling.

A new partnership with RecycleBank, as well as the expansion of Houston’s green-cart, single-stream recycling program, encourages residents to recycle.

If the RecycleBank program is deemed a success after the six-month rollout period, it will be expanded to other areas in the city. Photo: Flickr/telwink

If the RecycleBank program is deemed a success after the six-month rollout period, it will be expanded to other areas in the city. Photo: Flickr/telwink

“Houston has set many goals in becoming a greener, more sustainable city. Partnering with RecycleBank will both increase recycling and reduce the amount of material going to the landfill,” said Houston Solid Waste Management Director Harry Hayes.

Beginning Nov. 9 for 22,000 residents, RecycleBank, a program which already serves one million customers in 21 states, will provide incentives such as coupons, gift cards and discounts that participants can earn, depending upon the amount recycled by each household in Houston

Texas Instruments is responsible for the technology assisting RecycleBank with data collection.

Each green recycling cart is outfitted with an identification tag. Technology on the recycling truck reads the ID tags, records how much each household recycles by weight and transmits that information to RecycleBank. Each recycler has an account, which is credited with points based on the amount recycled.

Participants may then redeem their points with the more than 1,500 local and national businesses partnering with RecycleBank.

In March of this year, Houston made the switch from a dual-stream to a single-stream recycling program, meaning that all materials (paper, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, glass, tin, etc.) are collected in one bin.

Ten thousand homes began the program, and within six months, those homes had surpassed the city’s combined average. Participation in those neighborhoods has since grown from 24 percent to 55 percent.

“We expect to see a further increase, now that households will be rewarded for recycling,” Hayes said. “This program is good for both the environment and the local economy. RecycleBank Points translate into savings for residents during these tough economic times. Families may earn up to $450 worth in reward value each year through their household recycling.”

In addition the RecycleBank program, $3 million in federal stimulus money will be used to expand the single-stream recycling system to another 50,000 Houston households.

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