- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on July 21 that he would reopen the bidding process for a new city recycling contract that could run up to 20 years, as reported by the Houston Chronicle and other publications. This decision came two days after the Houston City Council delayed a decision on the contract at its July 19 meeting.
- Turner had originally announced his support to award a 15-year contract to FCC Environmental Services for $48.4 million, but faced intense questioning from council members over the selection process. During the July 19 meeting he spoke at length about the integrity of that process and refused to consider starting it over. Though in his subsequent statement, Turner recognized the need to address council members' concerns and promised to stand by whatever company was selected.
- The city will now look to FCC, Waste Management, Republic Services and Independent Texas Recyclers for best and final offers. Turner's communications director told the Houston Press that the process will begin within the next week or two.
Houston's recycling situation has been in flux for multiple years, following a change in mayoral administrations and the negotiation of a short-term contract with Waste Management in 2016 that dropped glass from the program. Former Mayor Annise Parker had backed a new mixed waste processing approach with the company EcoHub, and Turner appeared supportive of that direction for a time before deciding to issue a new request for single-stream proposals last fall. EcoHub's founder, George Gitschel, has since gone public with his criticism of the process.
Last month, Turner presented FCC's proposal as an opportunity for a fresh start. The Spanish company has pledged to build a new $20 million material recovery facility in Houston, move its headquarters to the city, return glass to the curbside program and offer employment opportunities for local residents. Yet Turner's decision to announce the contract selection at a press conference, rather than take the more traditional route of presenting details to the council first, marked the beginning of a tough few weeks for the deal. Numerous questions were raised about the proposal, such as why FCC was granted an exception on a 15-year bid when the RFP called for 10 years. By the time the contract was officially presented to council members — one day before they were expected to vote on it — many of those questions were still unanswered.
Now that the three other bidders will have one more shot, it's possible that they could also propose longer term contracts or adjust pricing accordingly. Both Waste Management and Independent Texas Recyclers currently handle portions of the city's recycling and Republic accepts its refuse at a local landfill. FCC has received a biosolids contract from Houston in the past, but doesn't have a presence in the market otherwise. They also have business in other Texas cities, with a new MRF in Dallas, as well as Florida. Though this would be their largest U.S. contract yet and a big boost to plans for future expansion in the country.