With Pearland’s Stella Roberts Recycling Center and numerous education programs in place to encourage residents to recycle correctly, many of which are run by Keep Pearland Beautiful, the organization that runs the center, the city is depending on residents to take initiative to continue the trend of clean recycling through the effects of different policy changes. Recycling became a topic of debate last year, according to Jordan Fengel, Texas State Alliance for Recycling’s executive director, when China enacted new standards for how much contaminated recycled waste it was willing to buy.
“The people of Pearland have a great resource in Stella Roberts,” said Adrian Hernandez, the executive director of Keep Pearland Beautiful. “We want to make sure people know what’s in place for them.” A common misconception about recycling is that when it gets picked up at the curb, there is a straightforward path for it to become new, ready-to-use products. The reality is a bit more complicated and involves more people along the way, Waste Connections District Manager Abel Moreno said.
Moreno is the Waste Connections district manager for the region that includes Friendswood as well as other cities such as Alvin and Manvel. Friendswood has a contract with Waste Connections to collect and handle curbside garbage and recycling. “We take our recycling the Seabreeze Environmental Landfill, then it’s shipped to Gasmer Recycling Center in Houston, then sold to secondary buyers,” Moreno said. “All these steps have workers and transportation fees. Right now, I’d say it costs three times more to recycle than it does to put it in a landfill.”
After recycling is sorted, it is sold to a secondary buyer responsible for reusing it. For many years, the largest buyer of recycling from America was China because it accepted lower-quality plastics and higher contamination rates, Fengel said. China is still accepting recycled plastics, but its contamination standard is now 0.5%, meaning if a shipment of recycling contains more than 0.5% nonrecyclable waste, it is not accepted. In the average American town, 25% of all recycled items are nonrecyclable waste, according to the website of Waste Management, a waste services company that handles garbage as well as recycling. Moreno said that in his opinion, the cleanest city he handles still has a contamination rate of about 40%.