Recycling disappears from Northeast Harris

Many have noticed that recycling paper and other waste in Northeast Harris County is much more difficult than it once was. There were paper recycling bins at the libraries, some churches and the schools with the understanding that these worthy causes would benefit from the efforts and generosity of locals endeavoring to help clean up where they live and that the companies would profit from the waste.

Paper waste would be a commodities market and in 2015 they plummeted. In the Greater Houston Region, Waste Management once provided bins and incentives to locals for paper, there were a multitude of understandings. One of those was that only paper and cardboard would go into the bins, that has not been the case in years. The last such local agency to call an attempt to recycle paper quits was Crosby ISD. When last they had recycle bins industrial and business waste was all anyone could see in what was supposed to be only paper and cardboard bin. An additional “contamination” fee for non-recycled waste mixed in with the recyclables typically raises the costs by another $12.50 per ton.

Maintenance personnel at Crosby ISD report having caught a commercial truck trying to dump trash in the school’s other bins. They were forbidden that time.

Precinct 3 Constable Sherman Eagleton warns that he is aware of such behavior and isn’t going to tolerate it.

“One of our main efforts since taking office in 2017 was improving the quality of life within the Precinct. Our Environmental Crimes Division has been extremely successful since beginning in taking enforcement action in the changing of numerous suspects in misdemeanor and felony cases. In the beginning of the year, we realized that we needed to take a step further. Since then we’ve established liaisons in each community to address environmental issues. We are currently working to forge partnerships with private sectors in East Harris County to improve recycling. We’re in the process of reaching out to local businesses who are willing to let us put recycling bins on their property.”

Where before 2016 reducing landfill intake and giving some a place to work, the commodity collapse however jacked up the cost from nothing to $92 per ton for hauling and processing. Where once Waste Management would haul and split profits with charities, they found costs exceeding and other companies went belly up.

Recycling in America from paper was propped up by China’s willingness to purchase much of it, ostensibly for recycling and reuse by its domestic industries. But in 2018, when China decided it didn’t want the paper waste, it slashed the amount it would take and required the rest to be nearly pristine in content, so recyclables plummeted in value. Now there was no one to sell an excess of paper to and prices hit a negative.

A ton of recycled paper saves the equivalent of 17 trees, more than 16,000 gallons of water and 5,500 pounds of carbon dioxide, plus locals are more likely to recycle paper; collection rates for paper are above 60% far above other types of waste.

Fleets of trucks have to pick waste paper up and employ facilities to clean it, pulp it and make it into rolls of recycled paper. Recycled paper can be sold to manufacturers.

Now, there is a positive chance that the low price of discarded paper could make it cheaper for consumer companies to use it in their products. And, paper products biodegrade, so paper products are rising in demand again. Containers and wrapping makes up about 30% of American trash styrofoam and plastic is being found needing to be replaced by biodegradables.