August 18, 2008
At the end of July I read an article in the New York Times stating that Houston was the worst recycling city in the country, with a recycling rate of just 2.6% of its total waste. (San Francisco, where I live, is the best recycling city in the country, recycling 69% of our total waste. I don't think there's anything wrong with taking pride in that.) It was a particularly well written and interesting piece about culture, sprawl, and the difficulty of getting people to change old habits. And there was one thing that really stood out, though it was only mentioned very briefly: Houston doesn't have enough recycling bins.
"That's ridiculous," I was told. But it turned out to be true. In areas of Houston with recycling programs there is up to a ten year wait for an 18 gallon bin. There are 25,000 people in Houston on the list. These are people who already believe recycling is a good idea, living in an area with a recycling program, but they're not recycling because the city hasn't given them a bin. Apparently there was an idea floating around about taking bins from people that aren't really using them and giving them to people who are waiting. But it's not even worth the administrative expense of reclaiming underused bins. The bins only cost $6.25.
So we decided to donate recycling bins to Houston.