Community Recycling Update

Ever wonder where your recycling goes when it leaves your curb?

Comingled shipping boxes, water bottles, soup cans and cartons in The Woodlands are destined for recycling carts across our community and roll their way to the curb each week. Have you ever wondered where these materials go once Waste Management trucks pick them up?  

Our recyclables are transported from the curbside cart to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Houston. Once the truck arrives, it is weighed and recorded before the contents are dumped on the tipping floor. The material is then evaluated for contamination. If the material passes inspection it’s loaded into the recycling equipment where it goes through a series of specialized sorting machines.  

Watch the journey your recycling goes on. 

Each machine seen in the video is specialized to recover the specific items listed on the top of your recycling cart. Any other items are considered contamination meaning they do not get recycled, jeopardize worker safety, damage equipment, and weaken our recycling program.  

The most important rules to follow when recycling in The Woodlands  

  1. Do not bag your recyclables, throw them in the cart loose
  1. No plastic bags. Take plastic bags and other films to local grocery stores for proper recycling. 
  1. Only recycle the listed items in your cart. 

What’s the status of recycling in The Woodlands? 

Following the National Sword in 2018, market values of all recyclables were at an all-time low and headlines such as “Recycling is Dead” made the news. Although the recycling industry has changed from foreign to newly established domestic markets in recent years, The Woodlands recycling program remains strong. 

Recycling revenues are up 32% in the last quarter for Waste Management with the average commodity prices 60% higher than one year ago. Markets for materials collected in our program have remained steady. Profits are being reinvested in new technology to improve processing and supporting domestic markets. 

Our recycling program received recognition for Keep Texas Beautiful in 2022 for Outstanding Public Education and Outreach for the reduction of contamination by 30% in one year following the new cart tag education program. The current two-year contamination rate is 16.5%, well below the national average 25%, which is also the threshold that would impose increased processing fees.

The Woodlands residential solid waste program recycles an average of 12,000 tons per year, composts 1,500 tons of yard waste, and landfills 34,500 tons per year. An average of 39% of waste generated in the curbside residential program is diverted from the landfill annually. How can you help prevent the remaining 61% of trash from heading to the landfill?  

  1. Reduce the amount of waste you create.  
    • Remember to bring reusable tote bags, coffee cups, water bottles and other on-the-go containers or utensils. 
    • Shop sustainably. Choose products with minimal packaging. Purchase locally to reduce shipping material. Buy second hand, or even better, use what you have for as long as you can. 
    • Refuse plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic cutlery and other single use plastics. 
  2. Donate gently worn clothing, furniture and home goods to local charitable organizations. Check out the Donation Guide for a complete list of locations and accepted items. 
  3. Recycle right and recycle more! 
    • Refresh your knowledge of which items are accepted in your recycling cart.  
    • Recycle beyond your curbside cart. Check out the Recycle More Guide for a list of locations to take items such as mattresses, electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, wine corks, food waste, household cleaners and much more. 

For questions, contact Environmental Services atenviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or 281-210-3800.  


Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:   

Recycling Dilemma #1010 – Textiles 

Recycling Dilemma #1009 – Recycling Dilemma #1009: Caution, that pizza box is cheesy! 

Recycling Dilemma #1008 – Plastic bags and film – Friend or Foe?  

Recycling Dilemma #1007 – How to stay caffeinated, sustainably   

Recycling Dilemma #1006 – Online Shopping   

Recycling Dilemma #1005 – Take-out Containers  

Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag   

Recycling Dilemma #1003 – Moving Boxes and Oversized Cardboard   

Recycling Dilemma #1002 –  Got Stuff?   

Recycling Dilemma #1001–  Oversized Cardboard & Moving Boxes 

New recycling program is the REEL deal

Did you know The Woodlands Township has more than 40 ponds in its parks system?! Many are stocked with bass, catfish and more, making them a great place to go fishing this summer. All bodies of water are catch-and-release, meaning you must remove the hook and toss your catch back into the water, except for Bear Branch Reservoir, Lake Paloma and Lake Woodlands, where you can keep the fish you catch. 

It’s critical we take care of this precious resource so we can enjoy it for many years. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department offers year-round programs to educate residents on the health of our waterways and provide opportunities to get involved. Visit our website for a list of upcoming programs including the Storm Drain Marking Project, the Pet Waste Project and the Invasives Task Force Program, all of which take action to protect our waterways. 

Some of our younger residents have taken up the cause to protect local aquatic wildlife and keep our waterways clean through a new recycling program at local ponds. Thanks to the hard work of two local Eagle Scout candidates, twelve township parks now have monofilament recycling stations (MRS) available for the public to use. Discarded monofilament line, or single-strand nylon fishing line, entangles birds, turtles and fish, causing unnecessary injury or mortality that could easily be prevented when properly discarded.  

Monofilament fishing line can last up to 600 years in the aquatic environment 

Daniel Verachtert first approached The Woodlands Township with his proposed Eagle Scout project to install an MRS at Northshore Park, Lake Paloma and Rob Fleming Park. Daniel’s project was well received and laid the groundwork for another Eagle Scout candidate, Colton Moore, to build and install eight additional MRS’s at parks throughout The Woodlands. 

An MRS not only provides a place to safely dispose of unwanted fishing line, but the collected line is cleaned of hooks, weights and trash and then shipped out for recycling where is it melted down and turned into other plastic products. So, next time you’re casting a line at a local pond, be sure to collect your broken, tangled or unwanted line and drop it off for recycling at one of these twelve parks with a monofilament recycling station:  

  • Capstone 
  • The Cove 
  • Reedy Pond 
  • Creekwood 
  • Cypress Lake 
  • Shadow Lake 
  • Deepdale Pond 
  • Mystic Lake 
  • Alden Bridge 
  • Northshore 
  • Lake Paloma 
  • Rob Fleming  

 “I’ve always loved fishing, and I fish a lot at the ponds in the Woodlands. I really enjoyed carrying out an eagle scout project that aligned with my personal interests so well, and I’ve committed to collecting fishing line from the recycling stations for the next three years until I go to college.” 

Colton Moore

Remember, a fishing license is required for all residents and non-residents to fish in public waters of Texas for almost everyone over the age of 17.  All lakes and ponds other than Bear Branch Reservoir, Lake Paloma and Lake Woodlands, are strictly catch-and-release but do NOT require a fishing license since they’re considered private waters. The upper portion of The Woodlands Waterway and Lake Robbins are the only bodies of water in The Woodlands that DO NOT allow fishing.

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:  

Recycling Dilemma #1010 – Textiles

Landfills received 11.3 million tons of textiles in 2018 and that number is only growing. Turn your rags into resources by recycling clothing unsuited for donation to a textile recycler. 

Fashion trends come and go and when they do, your pile of last season’s cast-offs mount. Conscientious citizens donate these to their favorite charity for a shot at a new life with a new owner. But what to do if your used stuff isn’t up to snuff?

Always give pre-loved, gently worn clothing, furniture and home goods a new home before considering recycling or disposal. Check out the Township’s Donation Guide for a list of local donation centers with easy pickup and drop off options. If you frequent one of these organizations, ask them if they recycle their leftover textiles. Some locations accept scrap fabric and overly worn items separate from your good items and are able to make a profit selling their scrap to a recycler.

Bypass the landfill and turn your old rags into re-usable textile fibers that just might turn into next season’s must-haves.

It’s simple to schedule a pickup of worn textiles and home goods from the comfort of your home. Fill a kitchen bag with worn clothes, towels, and bedding – no matter the condition – and schedule pickup at your front door. Voila – instant recycling!

When you recycle textiles, you help the environment by…

…minimizing landfill footprint

Landfills serve their purpose but they’re lousy for the environment and a burden to taxpayers. Making room for our trash is expensive—never mind the loss of land set aside for this purpose.

Did you know? Every 2000 lbs. of clothing that’s kept out of the landfill has the same environmental impact as removing 2 cars from the road.

reducing greenhouse gasses

A landfill is a hotbed of carbon dioxide and methane. Decomposing textiles ramp up those methane levels —the most significant contributor to climate change.

…conserving water and reducing chemical waste

Nearly every step of textile production depends on water—water that’s loaded with dyes and chemicals. The industrial waste byproduct is a major watershed pollutant in countries that lack environmental regulation.

Did you know? It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans and 600 gallons to make that t-shirt you’re wearing.

It’s easy to be green and recycle textiles at your door!

If your items aren’t in good enough condition to donate, schedule a recycling pickup with a local textile recycling company such as Green City Recycler. Just follow the steps below.


Clean, Green Fun for Kids!

Summer is just around the corner, although it may feel like it’s already started. Summer break is a great time to inspire your kids to appreciate our natural environment. Environmental activities help kids understand why the environment is important and provides them with the building blocks they need to live eco-friendly and sustainable lives. Check out these five simple eco-friendly activities for kids.

1-Recycle veggie scraps into compost

Did you know about 30% of our household trash is food waste? It’s easy to divert this “resource” away from the landfill through backyard composting. Composting is a fun and rewarding way for kids to watch natural processes in action and they’ll think twice about wasting their uneaten vegetables. Follow this easy guide and try out composting at home this summer.

2Plant a butterfly garden

Kid or adult, who doesn’t enjoy having butterflies around! Your garden will also attract hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators who need our help. It’s a great way for children to learn about the cycle of life and explore the relationship between plants and animals. Here’s an easy guide to get started. For examples of great plants for The Woodlands, check out this list.

3-Turn trash into treasure by making recycled paper

Here’s a fun way to show kids how paper that’s recycled curbside turns into something new. All you need are a few supplies found at home to make a brand new sheet of paper from old newspaper. Follow the instructions here.

4-Litter cleanup day

Enjoy a walk outdoors and help keep our community beautiful at the same time by picking up litter. The Township has litter grabbers and bags available for loan any time of the year. Check out The Woodlands Litter Cleanup Guide here.

5-Eco-movie night with Jack Golden

Grab the popcorn and settle in for movie night with a special online viewing of Garbage is My Bag: The Movie starring Jack Golden!

What do you do when a trash bag is so full you can’t fit it into the garbage can — or a town landfill is overflowing and polluting water supplies? ……..Call a “trashologist”!

In “Garbage is My Bag“ – an award winning performance program for school kids – Jack Golden is the comedic “expert”, Dr. T, who delves into a mountain of trash — and an even bigger bag of vaudeville and circus tricks — in search of answers to these questions. With a “Ph.D. in Garbology”, a zany and irresistible personality, and a marvelous trash-to-treasure-o-matic recycling machine, he juggles and jokes his way through a world of waste. Dr. T will teach you that rubbish is a resource that is just too good to throw away. Find your ticket to the movie here or watch the video below.


For more fun activities, check out The Woodlands Township’s Summer Action Guide here for programs by Environmental Services or Parks and Recreation.