UPDATE March 22, 2018: The Houston City Council approved a one-year recycling contract extension with Waste Management on March 21. Two members voted against it for unspecified reasons.
The current contract, set to expire March 23, will now run through March 25, 2019, at which point FCC Environmental Services will take over. No additional funding was approved for this extension.
Waste Management Vice President of Recycling Brent Bell recently told Waste Dive that the city's decision not to renew a long-term contract was "unfortunate," but said that "we absolutely can't guarantee a floor price for material anymore."
The council also voted unanimously March 6 to approve the $467,200 purchase of 10,000 carts from Toter. Council Member Robert Gallegos said the city's current practice of spending an estimated $1 million per year on replacement carts wasn't "sustainable," and that he looked forward to expected recommendations from the city's Solid Waste Management Department on how to manage those costs.
- Houston's Solid Waste Management Department is asking for a one year-extension of its recyclable processing contract with Waste Management through March 25, 2019, as first reported by the Houston Chronicle. The city's current two-year contract is set to expire next month and FCC Environmental's recently approved contract won't start until next year.
- The Houston City Council won't be asked to approve any additional funding at its meeting this week, as the original estimated budget of $5.76 million hasn't been fully spent. The city attributes this to multiple factors, including "reduced tonnage with the removal of glass; a rise in commodity prices during the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017; and the suspension of all curbside recycling post Hurricane Harvey."
- The council will also consider a motion to purchase 10,000 96-gallon refuse carts from Toter through an interlocal agreement with the City of Tuscon, AZ. If approved, this $467,200 deal would come with a 12-year warranty. The carts are intended as replacements "for units that were lost during Hurricane Harvey, stolen, or damaged beyond repair."
Houston has been faced with many recycling decisions — and debates — in recent years. This latest one stems from a deal cut by Mayor Sylvester Turner during his first months in office. In March 2016, Turner obtained council approval for a two-year contract that involved higher processing costs and the controversial suspension of glass service.
Following more than six months of back-and-forth, contract rebids and other surprises, the Houston City Council voted to approve a new $36.8 million contract with FCC Environmental Services last month. Turner had touted this contract all along because it would result in the construction of a new MRF and bring glass service back to Houston residents. FCC's $23 million MRF is expected to be ready in about 14 months, but until then the city still needs Waste Management.
The company's own Houston MRF was hailed as a technological model when it opened in 2011, but political and market winds seem to have shifted. Waste Management's bid was ultimately passed over because it didn't include a price cap, which is a company policy.
The fact that extending this deal wouldn't cost any extra money is likely welcome news for a city still recovering from last year's hurricane. Following the storm, Houston's curbside recycling service was suspended for more than a month. Bulk and yard waste service is scheduled to resume this spring.