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Houston’s One Bin Waste Recycling Plan Advisory Committee Lacks Diversity

August 26, 2014

Zero Waste Houston Coalition

HOUSTON – This past April Houston Mayor Anise Parker appointed a ten-member team to advise the city on the experimental One Bin for All recycling plan—a controversial plan initiated with a $1 million prize from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The plan would allow residents to mix trash, recyclables, yard clippings, food and other waste in a single container, to be automatically sorted at a first-of-its-kind $100 million plant to be built and run by a private firm.

According to a press release, the advisory committee will “provide expertise to the City regarding financing, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, environmental justice and outreach and education issues as the City moves forward to significantly increase its waste diversion.” Advisory Committee members include:

  • Jim Blackburn – Partner, Blackburn & Carter; and Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University
  • Winifred Hamilton, Ph.D. – Director of Environmental Health, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Barry L. Lefer, Ph.D. – Associate Department Chair and Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston
  • Jim Lester, Ph.D. – President, HARC
  • Cheryl Mergo – Sustainable Development Program Manager, H-GAC
  • Laurie Petersen – Sustainability Champion, NASA JSC
  • Lalita Sen, Ph.D. – Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University
  • Adrian Shelley, III – Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston
  • Alan Stein – President & CEO, A&E Interests
  • Jeff Taylor – Vice President, Freese and Nichols, Inc.

While the advisory committee contains some very smart people, it clearly is not representative of Houston’s diversity on many fronts. The ten-member advisory committee has eight whites, one black, one Asian, and no Hispanics. It has only three females. And the committee has no environmental justice organization representation and no residents from Houston neighborhoods impacted by landfills, transfer stations or recycling centers. One has to wonder, who will speak for those not in the room when decisions are being made about One Bin’s future?

Houston is often tagged as one of the “most ethnically diverse large cities” in America.”  Houston is an overwhelmingly people of color city demographically speaking. Non-Hispanics whites make up only 25.6 percent of the Houston population; blacks 23.7 percent and Hispanics 44.8 percent. While the city is 75 people of color, the One Bin for All advisory committee is 80 percent white.  This is an amazing statistic in 2014.  It is hard to imagine how the One Bin process can move forward in any credible way without “fixing” these glaring omissions, the most notable and obvious being the lack of any Hispanics on the advisory committee. The current composition of the One Bin advisory committee amounts to gender and ethnic “tokenism”and treats Houston’s large Hispanic community—nearly half the city’s population—as “Invisible Houston.” Yes, there are many smart Hispanics/Latinos in Houston who are capable of serving on the committee and advising the city on the One Bin for All plan.


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