Recycling a Recycling Problem

The effective date for the new recycling rules by the City of Houston have been delayed again.  See the article here.  Now you have until April 5th to start using the new, biodegradable bags for lawn clippings.  No longer will you be able to use plastic bags.  They delayed (recycled, some might say) the start of this program for the second time now because of a supply problem with the bags. 

The idea here is that it will save 60,000 tons of organic material from local landfills at an annual savings of more than $1.5 million in landfill fees—nearly 10 percent of the city’s yearly budget for waste disposal.  That is great!  I am in favor of the city finding ways to cut money out of the budget, but is this the way to do it?  Now, I’m a pretty “green” person.  I recycle, I turn off lights when I leave a room, and I don’t keep appliances on for longer than need be.  We should all be good stewards of our environment whether or not you believe in global warming.  But at what cost? 

The new bags cost 60-80 cents per 39-gallon starch bag versus about 23 cents for a petroleum-based plastic bag.  Ok, this might not break anyone’s bank, but after reading the comments about this article on Chron.com, I have a feeling some people won’t buy them out of principle.  Sure there is the obvious problem of neighbors getting mad at you when you don’t cut the grass or trim the trees.  The deed restrictions will surely have a field day with this one.  But there is a bigger problems here:

Houstonians aren’t given any options.  You can only buy the bags at Wal-Mart.  See here.  Yes, the city delayed this program to make sure stores are stocked with these bags, but by stores, they mean Wal-Mart.  Now I admit that I shop at Wal-Mart all the time, but not everyone does.  Not only that, but not ALL of the Wal-Marts have the bags.  Example, the Wal-Mart on Fry Road doesn’t have the bags, but it services West Houston (District A).  Yes, there are other Wal-Marts in the general area, but why should you have to drive (AND WASTE GAS AND POLLUTE THE ENVIRONMENT) all the way to another store just to get these bags? 

If we are going to save $1.5 million by requiring people to use these bags, why not use SOME of that money to buy garbage cans to give to people to fill with their clippings?  We already provide bins to neighborhoods where we pick up recycling items (not every area of Houston has this yet).  Surely garbage bins are better than any kind of bag because you can reuse (you know, recycle) them.  Then if someone has too many clippings for the cans, they can go and buy the bags for the rest of the work.  Now that’s a way to go green while keeping the green in your pocket and the city’s.

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One Response to Recycling a Recycling Problem

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