Monday, January 15, 2007

Southeast Texas needs active recycling

I believe in recycling. It's good for the economy, for America ... for the environment.

But I'm up to my ass in glass and plastic that I cannot recycle because Southeast Texas has yet to see the wisdom in protecting our already fragile environment here.

Alas, here in Beaumont, Texas, opportunities to recycle are limited. That's hard to imagine for a city of over 100,000 in a region of almost a quarter million people. One may take aluminum cans and waste paper to private local recyclers, but there are no recyclers who'll take glass or plastic. The City of Beaumont flirted with curbside recylcing a few years ago, but it failed miserably. And the City of Houston has an active recycling program ... but unless you can prove you live in Houston, you can't even donate your recyclables!

A little recycling is better than NO recycling, but glass and plastics are among the most plentiful and longer lasting materials we're plowing into our landfills. How much tax money could we save (or better yet, earn) if we could take glass and plastic out of the waste stream in Southeast Texas?

Well, here's some math: A typical family generates about 60 pounds of recoverable newspaper, cardboard, glass, plastic, tin, and aluminum every month. That means the roughly 140,000 households in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties are generating about 8.4 million pounds (4,200 tons) of recyclable waste every month. That's 50,000 TONS of recyclables a year, most of which is going into our landfills (or onto our deplorably dirty roadsides or beaches.)

Are we serious about energy independence in America? Well, recycling one plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W lightbulb for up to 6 hours. One plastic bottle. Recycling one glass jar saves enough energy to light a 100W light bulb for four hours. Recycling glass requires less energy to make new bottles or jars, too. Can we ever hope to sever our ties to the Middle East if we can't even keep one plastic bottle out of the dump?

Well, we can't do it in Southeast Texas. We talk big about a lot of things, but we appear to the outside world that we don't care about our environment or our country's future. Worse, those of us who are intent on recycling must waste gasoline to take our recyclables to distant cities where they can be processed, usually donating the materials simply to a church or school because we believe in it.

Beaumont's city fathers are now canoodling about a new slogan for the city and whether it takes three or four friefighters to drive a truck.. Now, I'd love for them to be spending their time on more substantive issues -- like recycling -- but it seems unlikely. Polticians don't "do," they only talk. Maybe it's time for the citizens who really believe in America's energy independence and our environment to take charge.

Southeast Texans, what can we do?


SingingSkies said...

hmmmmmm....My mom lives in Houston. Maybe we could use her for a recycling address? But then, the driving to and from Houston tips things in the wrong direction.

I agree, though, that we ought to be doing something to increase recycling here in southeast Texas. I just am not sure what.

Houston has these huge recycling bins at various locations (like the nearby high school parking lot) where you drop off and sort your recyclables - papers, plastic, glass. Maybe that would be a good starting point instead of attempting a return to the failed household curbside program. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

emil anonymously said:

Curbside recycling is GREAT! I live in a city of 17,000 in northern MO where we have curbside recycling for everything but glass and the local university takes glass and accepts from anyone. 'Course we only have this because there's a state law mandating decreased use of landfills. Hard to believe MO is ahead of anyone else on this ;)

Ron Franscell said...

Don't tell anyone, but I plan to just boldly drive up to a Houston recycling center and help them off-load my plastic and glass ... and hope nobody asks me for proof of my Houston citizenship! I'll let you know how it works!

I agree, Skies, at least a series of central recycling bins would be great. If we could convince one Beaumont/SETX recycler to take glass and plastic, that would be a huge step forward.

SingingSkies said...

emil, that's true; however, for some reason, it failed miserably here. I wasn't around at the time, so don't know precisely why. My house came with the blue recycle box, which thrilled me immensely, until I learned there was no pickup.

Good luck, Ron! I plan a drive-by recycling the next time I head to Mom's. If your plan doesn't work, I'll give you the location of an unattended drop-off site! Let the conspiracy begin!

I fear the previous failed attempt will hamper progress in the near future, unless a fairly large number of people jump on the bandwagon. Perhaps this time around it might be more successful. One can certainly present some more pressing reasons for recycling now. We can only hope (and do what we can to actively raise awareness)!

Anonymous said...

Beaumont is a university town - maybe something could be done in conjunction with LU. Maybe the Earth and Space Sciences division? Any ideas?

Jill said...

That is and will continue to be a problem. I would not know where to take all the stuff and I dont have any place to store it. I have a hard enough time just getting the garbage to the curb. I do like the idea of curbside pick up. But then they would probably have to hire more people and have more trucks. Can't win.

Anonymous said...

emil added:

Sorry but can't resist one more comment. Trash pickup here is not done by city crews but is contracted for with area company. Curbside recycling is part of the contract and the company gets 'proceeds' i.e. whatever they can realize from sale of recycables. Local handicapped workshop does the sorting of items. Each household is limited to one bag of trash per week or pays a dollar a bag for extra. Trash payment is part of billing by city for water/sewer and the stickers for the extra dollar are available at grocery stores,etc. No limit on amount of recycling you put out.

Psychogreengirl said...

hey howdy guys!

i've got trouble in this area too. i spent two hours playing phone tag q and a a few days ago trying to find a place that didn't just recycle hazardous waste or metal. i finally got ahold of somebody from waste management, who didn't even know a lot about it, but they were 10x more helpful than anybody else in an answer.

the problem is i live in dayton, right smack dab between houston and beaumont, and found out that the nearest location to me that recycles plastic and everything else household is in SPRING! yikes, that's 53 miles away from me!

i'd just love to write some letters around the southeast texas area to see if there could be a recycling center built or put up or whatever, but i'm not sure how to write that kind of letter and to whom.

my mom lives in beaumont, and if i had to drive there once in a while to see her and other such stuff, i wouldn't mind swinging by the recycling center on my way, if there was one. there's just nothing here, and i bet something like a drop-off and/or pick up recycling center would create some jobs in the area, too. i think i'd be happy just knowing that if this option was available, people probably wouldn't burn their trash in the back yards as much (something i hope to get rid of, i'm hiding our recyclable garbage from dad so he won't go out and do it).

with so many people living in the area, we do need some recycling centers around. i'm gonna research and find out the workings of my old town (pearland, where they do have a recycling program) and see how it starts up.

Anonymous said...