A key step for Houston to reduce garbage

Per-Household Trash Fees Can Reduce 412 Pounds of Waste Annually Per Person

dumptruck on a pile of trash
Jose Angel Aster Rocha Shutterstock | Shutterstock.com

In Texas, we produce about 38.23 million tons of landfill waste annually. This staggering amount causes a loss of land area for landfills, methane emissions contributing to climate change, and the potential leaching of hazardous materials into groundwater. It is evident that landfills cause critical issues for the health of our environment, and any effort to reduce landfill waste fights climate change, saves our drinking water, and protects greenspaces. Many Texans may not consider these effects, but by creating fees for household waste production, we can incentivize individuals to be more mindful of how much they throw away.

Houston differs from other Texas cities by deriving its solid waste funding from the city budget. Other cities, such as Austin and Dallas, charge a per-household fee for solid waste management. These cities provide different sizes of trash bins, — in San Antonio, for example, they have 96-gallon, 64-gallon, and 48-gallon trash bins — and the larger the bin, the larger the fee. By charging customers larger amounts for larger trash bins, customers have a market incentive to reduce their waste production. It is estimated that per-household trash fees reduce waste generation by 412 pounds annually per household. On the other hand, Houston uses tax revenues to fund these services. While Houston’s citizens are paying for municipal waste services, these fees are “invisible” as their annual taxes go to a variety of city services. Thus, no incentive is created to reduce waste since costs per household do not change with their waste production. 

If Houston creates a per-household trash fee, individuals may find ways to reduce their waste. This new fee could promote reducing consumption, donating belongings instead of throwing them away, recycling, and composting. Landfills produce 109.3 million metric tons of COequivalent emissions annually, and by choosing environmentally-conscious options to reduce waste, we can help lower that alarming statistic. 

Four of Houston’s mayoral candidates — Amanda Edwards, Robert Gallegos, Gilbert Garcia, and Lee Kaplan — voiced their support of adopting a trash fee at a recent candidate forum. By implementing a per-household trash fee, they can fund this department properly — they could collect $3 million more in fees for solid waste management — and consequently reduce landfill waste. 

Additionally, the current allotment of land for landfills will reach capacity in 20 years. We can either reduce landfill waste or use more land to fill the demand for landfills — the latter is not ideal for people or the environment. Thus, it is the duty of Texans to find solutions to reduce their landfill waste.

Environment Texas supports Houston’s consideration and potential adoption of a per-household trash fee. It is the solution to protect Houston’s people, environment, and future. 


Caroline Gamble


Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.

Find Out More