From Bags to Benches

Closing the recycling loop in The Woodlands

Did you know? Every ounce of plastic ever created is still with us. Breaking down into ever-smaller particles, plastic never fully disappears or forms a new compound. Since plastic remains an integral part of our lives, recycling is critical for protecting the environment. We all know that plastic bottles and containers belong in the recycle cart, but what about plastic bags and film?

Plastic bags and film cannot be recycled in your curbside recycling cart.

Why not? Your recycling cart delivers a mixed load of materials to the recycling facility – this is known as single stream recycling. Once there, the jumble is sorted into discrete bales of recyclables – aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, glass, and plastic containers. Contamination is filtered out and landfilled. The more contaminants that enter the system, the harder it is to produce bales of quality recyclables.

Plastic bags and film top the list of contaminants. Hoses, wires, textiles, and Styrofoam are a close second. They wrap around equipment, clog filters, and force the line to stop for cleaning and repair. These interruptions increase the cost to process the material, harming its marketability and the success of our recycling program.

Recycle more at the store! Although plastic bags and film cannot go in your recycling cart, they CAN be recycled at participating locations including all grocery stores in The Woodlands. Any plastic bag or film that is clean, dry, and stretchy can go back to the store for proper recycling.

Click here for a printable version of this tip card

What happens next? Each year, tons of plastic film are turned into composite lumber – a plasticized material used in park benches, picnic tables, decks, fences, and playground equipment. This material is commonly used in our parks and pedestrian bridges.

Want to learn more about plastic film recycling in The Woodlands? Visit us at the next Plastic Film Outreach Day this Saturday, July 30, 2022 at H-E-B in Creekside Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. An expert will be available to answer questions and provide examples of recyclables films. Reusable produce bags and shopping lists will be available while supplies last.

Want to recycle MORE? Check out this the Recycle More Guide for locations to recycle items such as batteries, electronics, Styrofoam and more at  www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/recyclemore. For questions, contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800. 

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:  

3R Drive-thru: Light Bulb Recycling

Recycle Light Bulbs; earn scholarship funds for your village!

If you feel in the dark about light bulb disposal, here’s a bright idea: recycle used light bulbs to earn scholarship money! The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has selected Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs for the annual Village Recycling Challenge held at the 3R Recycling Drive-thru on Saturday, November 12, 2022 from 9 a.m. to noon in The Woodlands High School’s parking lot. Light bulbs must be intact, not broken. Batteries and other listed items will also be accepted. This event is for residents only, no businesses. 

This year’s Recycling Village Challenge shines a light on the importance of responsible waste disposal. Recycling light bulbs saves material that can be reused, reduces landfill space, and keeps hazardous chemicals out of our environment. Although they are made of glass, metal and plastic, light bulbs cannot be recycled in your curbside cart.

How are light bulbs recycled? 

Light bulbs are put through a machine, called a tumbler, which crushes and separates the primary components: glass, metal, plastic, mercury and phosphor. These materials are then stored for manufacturing into new items.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) contain a small amount of mercury gas. If CFLs are disposed of in a trash can or landfill, the glass can crack and release mercury into the environment. Chemicals from CFLs and other hazardous waste, such as batteries that end up in the landfill, can leach into the surrounding water table, endangering human health and the environment. CFLs and other household hazardous waste should always be treated with care and safely disposed of through special collections. If you are saving CFL bulbs for recycling, please store them in a safe place such as their original box to avoid damage. 

Want to save money, energy and even water? 

LED light bulbs use 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, saving energy, money and even water. They also pose almost no fire risk because they emit  less heat than other bulbs. LED lightbulbs may cost more up front, but they’ll save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the years because of efficiency and long life span.  

Join us for free recycling of select items and support your village by bringing Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs to the 3R Recycling Drive-thru for the Village Recycling Challenge. The village that collects the most will receive a donation to its scholarship fund from The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.  

Can’t make it to 3R Recycling Drive-thru?  

That’s ok! The Montgomery County Precinct 3 Recycling Center (1122 Pruitt Road in Spring), Home Depot, Lowes, Batteries Plus and Best Buy accept different types of light bulbs all year. For a comprehensive list of local recycling opportunities of other oddities such as electronics, batteries, paints, pharmaceuticals, and more check out the Recycle More Guide.  

For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/3rdrivethru

It’s Pollinator Week!

Celebrate the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles during National Pollinator Week, June 20-26 2022. 

A celebration of pollination 

When pollen is moved within a flower, or carried from one flower to another, it leads to fertilization, an essential step in reproducing flowers, fruit, and plants. The vast majority of flowering plants depend on insects and animals for pollination, including 35% of the world’s food crops like almonds, coffee, avocados and so much more. 

More than 99% of pollinators are beneficial insects – flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths and bees. Unfortunately, pollinator populations are in decline, mostly due to pesticides and the loss of feeding and nesting habitat.  

Ten Things You Can Do in Your Yard to Encourage Pollinators 

1. Plant a pollinator garden—provide nectar and feeding plants (flowers and herbs). Visit our website for more information on planting a pollinator garden or register your existing garden. 

2. Provide a water source—place shallow dishes of water in sunny areas or create a muddy spot. 

3. Provide shelter and overwintering habitat (bee boxes, undisturbed soil areas, and piles of woody debris). 

4. Stop using pesticides. Use natural alternatives

5. Provide sunny areas out of the wind – a sun drenched stone near a shrub is a perfect place to rest and recharge. 

6. Plant native species. Mimic local natural areas by selecting native plants. Bluebonnets and black-eyed susans aren’t just roadside beauties. Make your pollinator garden a showstopper with native plants and wildflowers for your neighbors and pollinators to enjoy.   

7. Grow flowers throughout the seasons. Provide a variety of colors and shapes. 

8. Plant in clumps and layers. Use trees, shrub layers, with some low growing perennials and vines—intermix with flowering annuals. 

9. Use compost instead of commercial fertilizers. 

10. Look but do not touch. More than being mindful of a potential sting, pollinators are delicate insects easily harmed if handled. Take a photo instead! 


Come celebrate pollinators, and more of our natural world, on Saturday, June 25. Join the Environmental Services Department and nature specialists at our annual BioBlitz. Learn about our migrating bird populations, try your hand at insect identification, explore the weird world of mushrooms and investigate what’s living in our waterways.  

Stop by the Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park with the whole family between 8 – 11 a.m. Bring your mobile device to access the iNaturalist app and make as many observations as you can while exploring the recreation campus and the nearby George Mitchell Nature Preserve. Staff will be available to assist with iNaturalist. 

Click the button below for more information on this free event. 

Care about water? Become a water specialist!

Get certified this summer! Join the corps of well-informed volunteer specialists who provide education, outreach, and service to keep our local water bodies healthy. This unique certification program, made possible by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department, is offered to both students (grades 9 – 12) and adults.

You can be certified as a Texas Waters Specialist after completing just 8 hours of training based on the Texas Waters curriculum guide. You’ll receive a certificate and an official pin designating you as a certified waters specialist. Then volunteer with The Woodlands Township and other local agencies to educate and work beside your neighbors in protecting local aquatic resources.

The good news: you can attend classes to obtain the needed training hours right here in The Woodlands! The Environmental Services Department has several class dates scheduled through the summer. If you need more information, email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov with the subject line: water specialist inquiry.

Get started today and register as a TPWD volunteer here. For more detailed instructions on how to register, follow along with this document.

To earn your hours through The Woodlands Township, register for an upcoming class here.

Upcoming water lab classes are scheduled for Saturday, July 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday, August 20 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Bear Branch Recreation Center.

Benefits of a healthy waterway

“Forested and vegetated waterways provide a multitude of benefits to our air and water quality, flood resilience, our sense of community, and public health” according to Justin Bower, Principal Planner, Community and Environmental Planning, for Houston-Galveston Area Council. He also points out that “everything that happens on the land, including our yards, driveways, roads and open spaces, can wash pollutants and contaminants into our waterways when it rains.” 

Explore the critical benefits of healthy forests, riparian areas (streamside vegetation) and waterways by attending the Smarter About Sustainability Seminar on Saturday, May 14 with Justin Bower. You’ll learn… 

  • How riparian areas are the last line of defense for slowing and filtering stormwater before it reaches the creeks and lakes we depend on.  
  • The direct link between our lawns and landscapes and healthy riparian zones and waterways. 
  • Best landscaping practices for protecting our waters and riparian zones including adding native plants and organic fertilizing.  
  • Opportunities to join community volunteer efforts.  

A body of water with trees around it

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Summer clouds over Bear Branch

We’ll also dive into the damaging effects of invasive species. Ashley Morgan-Olvera, Outreach and Education Director for the Texas Invasive Species Institute at Sam Houston State University, will fill us in on why keeping invasive, and destructive, animals and vegetation out of our community’s forests and stream areas enhances the benefits we gain from these critical ecosystems. Learn how you can make a difference by volunteering with our local Invasives Task Force to help remove invasives from our pathways and public green spaces by attending. 

Smarter About Sustainability Seminar 

Date/Time: Saturday, May 14, 2022 | 9a.m. to noon 

Location: Online 

This is a FREE Seminar. REGISTRATION is required.