Houston could have thousands more jobs by increasing recycling initiatives, according to the report “More Jobs, Less Pollution,” released Nov. 15 from a collaboration of six sources, including the BlueGreen Alliance, Recycling Works! and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In honor of National Recycling Day on November 15th, a diverse coaltion of community residents, union members, and environmental advocates gathered at the steps of City Hall in Houston to highlight discussions about the city’s efforts to extend a recycling contract with Waste Management Inc.
Part of the Brighter Future Houston campaign, members of SEIU Local 1, HOPE, the Houston city employees union ,Texas Campaign for the Environment, the Sierra Club, Good Jobs Great Houston, the Texas Organizing Project and the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance are continuing to make recycling and jobs a priority for Houston.
According to the report, if Americans were to recycle 75 percent of their waste, recycling efforts could create 1.5 million jobs across the country by 2030. About 45,000 of these jobs would be in collecting and processing the waste materials in Texas. The remanufacturing of recycled materials can create thousands of additional jobs.
“Houston is the fourth largest city in the US, a leader in economic and developmental growth, the energy capitol of the world, there is no reason for Houston to be a laggard when it comes to recycling,” said Tyson Sowell, Program Director – Houston, Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE). “Houston can be a leader in good, green job growth. We challenge the city, working with stakeholders, to create a comprehensive waste management plan with a goal of at least 90% waste diversion from landfills by 2030. Houstonians have a right to recycle and we need to create good jobs.”
Currently, the majority of Houstonians do not have access to single-stream recycling and the city has not created a plan to expand recycling. Additionally, neighborhoods with recycling are a patchwork with one neighborhood having recycling while just a block or two away, another neighborhood does not.
“Half of my neighborhood has access to recycling services while the other half doesn’t, even after we requested it,” said Veronica Ortega, a Southeast Houston resident. “We all have the same rights to have access to this service since we all pay taxes.”
Right now, the city is negotiating a recycling contract. Based on the Request for Proposal that the city released, there is no requirement for the potential contractor to expand recycling or create jobs.
“If you care about jobs, if you care about the environment, and you care about Houston, then you should be for having the city do a lot more recycling, and hiring Houston workers to do it,” said Tommie Toran, Acres Homes resident. “We need recycling in our neighborhoods, we are throwing away valuable jobs by putting recycling in our landfills.”
“The city can benefit by expanding the recycling program citywide,” said Isaiah Monroe, Jr, a resident of Meyerland and a leader of HOPE, the city employees union. “We can create more jobs.”
A 90% reyccling rate will not only create jobs but will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2 from the extraction of virgin materials and methane from landfills. This is equivalent to removing 50 million cars from our roads.
“Recycling conserves natural resources, cuts global warming pollution, and saves water and energy,” said Frank Blake, Executive Committee Member, Houston Group of the Sierra Club. “This new report shows that not only is recycling good for the environment, it’s good for the economy. By expanding recycling, we can create jobs and help protect the environment at the same time.”