City launches probe after Solid Waste driver caught mixing trash, recycling
Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department has launched an internal investigation after a video aired by a local television news report earlier this week showed a city garbage truck driver mixing trash and recyclables in a single bin, a violation of policy.
The driver then dumped the load at a landfill site, a spokesperson from the solid waste department told the station.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that employees found to have mixed trash and recycling could be suspended or fired. The type of disciplinary action would depend in part on how many times the employee was found to have dumped recycling in landfill, Turner said.
The mayor otherwise did not tell reporters what the investigation entailed, saying only that it would be “full and complete.” Turner also said reporters should supply him with the names of any garbage truck drivers they may know to have violated the city’s policy.
“Let me just say, 99 percent of all the employees do an outstanding job,” Turner said. “But if there are one employee or more than one employee that’s violating the city’s policy — and dependent on how egregious the action is — we’ll determine what the severity of the penalty will be.”
Solid Waste Management spokeswoman Irma Reyes said the department is reviewing the allegations.
Anyone “confirmed to have intentionally violated procedures or anyone who encouraged employees to violate procedures will face immediate disciplinary action,” Reyes said in a statement.
A day after airing video of a solid waste management driver emptying garbage and recycling bins in the same truck, KHOU 11 interviewed department workers who said supervisors had instructed them to take recycling to landfill.
Asked if the department knows whether the practice of mixing trash and recyclables is widespread, Reyes said only that doing so violates department policy, and officials learned about the driver depicted on KHOU “late last week.”
A staffer for Councilman Robert Gallegos, who chairs city council’s Regulation and Neighborhood Affairs Committee, said Gallegos would ask solid waste employees to brief the committee on the conclusions of the investigation when it is finished.
The investigation comes less than a month after city officials held the grand opening of a recycling facility in northeast Houston that includes the ability to process glass. For two years before the plant opened, the city accepted only paper, cardboard, plastics and metal cans in the green bins used for its curbside recycling program, a move that lowered processing costs under a stopgap deal.
Turner struck the deal to save funds amid plunging commodities prices coinciding with multiple tight city budgets.