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Want a new trash bin? Under City Hall plan, it could cost you

The city of Houston is considering billing residents for new trash and recycling bins in an effort to recoup the cost of replacing thousands of the black and green cans each year.

If approved by City Council, it would cost roughly $74 to get a new trash or recycling bin more than once a decade, and $40 to have a container cleaned, services for which the city currently does not charge.

“We’re not in the position where we can just keep providing you with bins after bins after bins. Everyone has to be responsible. Somebody’s got to pay the tab,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday. “We give you one. If you ask for another one, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

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This is the second time since Turner took office in 2016 that he has considered adjusting fees or subsidies for sanitation services. The mayor two years ago considered eliminating the $6-per-month subsidy Houston pays to homeowners who opt out of city trash pickup, but abandoned the plan after neighborhood associations balked.

Now, Turner is aiming to chip away at the roughly $1 million the city pays annually for lost or stolen bins.

The city would, under the proposed plan, replace containers for free if they are “damaged beyond use” by city collectors, or if they are lost during a disaster such as Hurricane Harvey. Residents otherwise would be required to pay the fee.

District I Councilman Robert Gallegos suggested such an approach two years ago.

Daniel Santamaria, Gallegos’ chief of staff, added Friday that the councilman would like to see any potential cost savings put toward collecting illegally dumped tires or abandoned shopping carts.

Super Neighborhood Alliance Chair Michael Huffmaster said he supports policies that discourage people from taking someone else’s trash or recycling bin, but questioned the expectation that residents maintain their containers for 10 years.

“That’s awfully optimistic. Maybe a five-year repeat interval might make sense as opposed to 10,” Huffmaster said.

The city’s trash and recycling bins are covered by a 10-year warranty, but mayoral spokesman Alan Bernstein said information was not available on how often the city has invoked that coverage.

Huffmaster also called on the administration to seek public feedback. “The alliance really believes in transparency and engagement, and what I fear is that there’s very little engagement of the community in setting these policies, and that’s unfortunate. Because I think if you want policies to be accepted and for policies to be respected, they need to be based on values that the community espouses.”

Trash and recycling fees vary across large Texas cities.

In Austin, for example, residents do not have to pay for replacement bins unless they are requesting a larger container, spokeswoman Ashley Pace said. However, the city charges $42.85 monthly to collect a standard 96-gallon bin. Residential trash and recycling pickup are included in taxpayer-supported basic services for Houston homeowners.

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