City of Houston considers monthly surcharge for trash collection, recycling expenses

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The city of Houston's garbage czar wants to hit homeowners with a monthly surcharge of $15-$20 to cover a variety of expenses related to trash collection and recycling.

"We are the only big Texas city that doesn't have a fee like this," the City of Houston's Solid Waste director, Harry Hayes, said.

Among the expenses, the city spends approximately $1 million annually on illegal dumping.

Hayes said he believes a monthly fee, probably tacked onto water bills, would help combat the problem, chiefly by doubling the number of neighborhood collection centers.

[Click here to see a list of current trash/recycling centers | View map of illegal dump site 311 calls]

The reasoning is that if legal options are more convenient, more people will refrain from dumping old tires, furniture and yard waste on the side of the road.

For Houston residents, there is no fee to use the neighborhood centers, but there are rules and limits.

KPRC 2 viewers chimed in with photos, tweets and Facebook comments on Wednesday about streets in their neighborhoods that have been targeted by illegal dumpers.

KPRC 2 forwarded exact locations to the city's Solid Waste Management Department.

"It does get picked up but it is just recurring," Jacob Millwee said.

Millwee's wife sent Channel 2 Investigates photos of garbage piled high near their North Houston home.

"Independence Heights is a historical neighborhood so I hate to see it being treated like this," Millwee said.

Millwee said he uses the city's 311 telephone reporting system and thinks it is "somewhat" responsive. He calls up to five times per week, he said.

City crews were on Millwee's block Wednesday to clean up, he said.

"They were here today, but there could be another dump site here as early as tomorrow," Millwee said.

The rules are different for businesses.

"It costs maybe $40 or $50," Carl Roberts, a tree cutter, said.

KPRC 2 News caught Roberts dumping branches near Tidwell and Lockwood. He argued it is too expensive for small commercial operations to properly dispose of waste.

"They're small-time operators that are doing tree cutting services or hauling tires for profit and they want to maximize that profit by not going to a legal facility," Hayes said.

"I can't afford it. I don't have the money. It's hard out here," Roberts said.

Channel 2 Investigates, with data provided by the city of Houston 311 call center, identified the top five zip codes, measured by complaint volume, for illegal dumping:

5. 77022, North Houston, Interstate 45 corridor

4. 77016, Northeast Houston, east of 59

3. 77004, South of Downtown, near University of Houston

2. 77021, South Houston, north of 610

1. 77026, Northeast of downtown, east of 59

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