The city of Houston has sent at least 2.6 million pounds of curbside collected recyclables to the landfill this year, breaking its own recycling rules in the process, KHOU 11 reports after analyzing city records.
A city council member called for the removal of Harry Hayes, director of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department, for failing to ensure residents’ recyclables were being properly handled.
“You either terminate the leadership or you make changes,” says Brenda Stardig, a District A council member who represents Spring Branch, Texas. “In my world, coming from the private sector, this would be a failed business at this point.”
Daily collection data forms were analyzed by KHOU 11’s investigative team. The forms included the type of material collected, the time it was collected and disposal site for each load. These forms were filled out daily by each truck driver responsible for the loads.
The information revealed a pattern of recycling violations occurring throughout the city, KHOU 11 reports.
KHOU 11 found that at least 123 city trucks dumped 333 loads or partial loads of recyclables at a landfill or garbage transfer facility, which ultimately ends up in a landfill.
Additionally, about 41 percent of the estimated 2.6 million pounds of recyclables sent to the landfill was dumped after Houston’s new recycling center began processing recyclables March 1, KHOU 11 reports.
City records also show that 28 loads still went to the landfill after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered the Solid Waste Department to send out a memo to employees April 24 that threatened “immediate disciplinary action” if the city’s recycling policy was not upheld.
“It’s insane. I just can’t believe this is happening,” says Michael Kubosh, Houston City Council member at large. “He says to cease this and yet it’s still occurring.”
Residents in the Tanglewilde neighborhood of Houston voiced their displeasure with the news that their recyclables were being sent to landfill.
“I want to know why they’re lying about helping the environment by dumping it in the trash,” says resident Elizabeth Anderson.
“It pisses me off,” says Glenn Chasse, who believes upper-level city managers are to blame. “It’s coming from above; there’s a problem above.”
KHOU 11 reports that Hayes, the head of the city’s recycling program, said his agency is less than two weeks away from completing an internal audit and will comment once that report is final.
“Everyone will be held accountable,” Hayes says.