In January 2018, the Houston City Council voted to approve the recycling deal with FCC, despite evidence the city rigged the bid to exclude EcoHub. Shortly thereafter, Dolcefino Consulting filed a criminal complaint filing against Mayor Sylvester Turner, accusing him of illegally withholding public e-mails with his political confidante Maya Ford, who detailed possible ethical misconduct by city garbage boss Harry Hayes and big landfill companies in the course of developing the RFP, even while the City ostensibly was negotiating with EcoHub. Even the day before the RFP documents were released, emails between top city officials warned that the RFP would exclude companies.
George gives Michael the scoop on EcoHub’s mission to transform the industry from Take-Make-Waste into a Circular Integration model of Sustainable Materials Management and how these efforts to make Houston a leader in the field have been stymied by government and private sector opponents alike.
The following was sent out from Houston Mayoral Candidate Tony Buzbee’s campaign on March 26, 2019:
Let’s talk trash. No, I’m not talking about picking up your solid waste or recyclables on time—which we must do, and will do, when I’m mayor. I’m instead talking about something much different. What if I told you we can make Houston completely waste free in little more than five years? What I mean by “waste free” is that we eliminate landfills, and instead completely recycle in Houston and sell almost 100% of all waste that the City of Houston and surrounding areas produce. Sound too good to be true, or pie in the sky? I don’t think so. We can do it and will do it when I’m your mayor.
Houston produces thousands of tons of waste per day. More than two thirds of Houston residents use the city’s trash service. That’s around 376,000 households. The rest of Houston pays for private pickup, but no matter who picks it up, the waste itself is handled in the same way.
The city picks up solid waste once per week—when it actually picks it up. All of the solid waste is buried at multiple landfills around the perimeter of the city. And, again, when it picks it up, the city picks up the recycling twice a month. At best, 30% of the “recyclables” picked up by the city actually get recycled with the remainder going into landfills. Of the portion that is actually recycled, it has in the past been sold to China and India. Recently, both China and India have indicated that they will no longer purchase waste from other countries. It remains to be seen whether any of the so-called “recyclables” are actually being recycled now that China and India have taken this action. Finally, just for sake of completeness, the city also picks up larger waste (“heavy trash”) once a month; all of that waste is again… put into landfills. Around the perimeter of the city, we have multiple landfills, and multiple transit stations for this trash—all operated by private companies who contract with the city. Needless to say we spend millions on dealing with the thousands and thousands of tons of waste Houston produces yearly.
Proven technology exists today that will allow us to put in place a system such that we recycle almost all of the waste that the city produces. Once recycled, this waste can then be sold. The concept was developed by scientists and engineers at a private company and is called Ecohub. The Ecohub concept has been around for many years. It is the subject of many patents. It has private equity backing. The best part is that an Ecohub can be put in place, while Houston continues to handle waste the way it is handled now, until Ecohub is up and running. Because nothing would change until the Ecohub system was up and running, and because private money would be financing the project, there would be no downside risk to Houston. All of the money required to get Ecohub up and running is private money; if it doesn’t work, we are still in the same boat as we were before. And you want to hear the best part? Because with the Ecohub system, Houston would be selling its waste, which would save the city upwards of $40 million a year, not to mention all the money we would save by reducing the amount of trucks we need for pickup,or the money we spend on landfills.
What would a concept like Ecohub mean to you? No more sorting of trash; no more multiple bins; just one receptacle, picked up one time a week (“One bin” concept). Once Ecohub is up and running, Houston would be the first city in the country that could tout itself as “waste free.” With Ecohub we could save money and also help our environment. Now that’s something we could all be proud of.
You have to be wondering, why haven’t we done this already?!? It’s funny you asked. The company that has this proven technology presented this idea to the city several years ago. But, due to lobbyists and the Mayor’s friends who are connected to the current waste companies doing business with the city, the proposal went nowhere. You can see from this one example that if we truly want to be a city thinking about the future and innovation, we have to clean up City Hall and end the rampant lobbying and corruption. We will end the pay to play system that is ruining our government. We can clean up this city together, both literally and figuratively.
Candidate for Mayor of Houston