Hoping the pet waste fairy picks up after your dog?

What’s pet waste have to do with wading in Spring Creek? Let’s break it down: Based on national averages, our community dog population produces about 55,000 pounds of waste per day*. Most of us are diligent about picking up after our pets, but not all. Too many feel someone else will clean it up – maybe the pet waste fairy. 

When dog waste is left behind, the bacteria it contains is washed into the nearest storm drain during rains, flowing to the closest waterway. It empties unfiltered and untreated into our community streams, creating a health hazard for humans enjoying water-based recreation. 

The contaminated water continues to the next stream, river or lake all the way to the coast and the Gulf of Mexico, adding bacteria along the way as it runs through more urban areas. Houston-Galveston Area Council’s 2020 Basin Report indicates that almost 65 percent of Spring Creek is listed as impaired because of high bacteria levels. The primary source is dog waste.

42% of the streams in our region are impaired due to elevated levels of bacteria. For more information, see pages 4 and 8 of the 2020 Basin Report for more details regarding Spring Creek.

According to the Report, in the Houston-Galveston region one of the most significant water quality issues faced is elevated levels of bacteria in our local waterways – indicators of the presence of sewage and pathogens such as infectious bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. High bacterial concentrations may cause gastrointestinal illnesses or skin infections in swimmers or others who come into direct contact with the water. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, set the acceptable level of bacteria in waterways as 126 colony forming units (cfu) per deciliter (dL). On average, Spring Creek levels are between 350 and 800 cfu/dL, with the higher numbers during runoff after rainfall. The tributaries within the Township that flow into Spring Creek, Lower Panther Branch Creek, Willow Creek, Bear Branch Creek and Lake Woodlands, are all included on the list of impaired waterways because of bacteria. 

More data on impairment levels of Spring Creek are available courtesy of the Houston-Galveston Area Council

Be a responsible pet owner and don’t wait for the pet waste fairy. Picking up after our dogs and keeping our community clean, means water that’s safe for human recreation and for the aquatic organisms that live in it, and better for the environmental health of our community. 

*Resources: American Veterinary Medicine Association and  www.clearchoicescleanwater.org 


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Recycling Dilemma #1007 K-Cups: How to stay caffeinated, sustainably

In 2013, roughly 10 billion Keurig brand coffee pods were sold. Popularity of single serving coffee makers has grown since then and manufacturers of pods are hesitant to reveal how many are sold annually. It is estimated that the amount of coffee pods, or K-Cups, in landfills could wrap around the planet 10 times! (The Story of Stuff) Imagine all the wasted coffee grounds that could be composted and all the aluminum and plastic could have been recycled into new products.

We love the convenience of coffee pods, but it comes with a cost: coffee pods cannot be recycled through our curbside program and are considered a contaminant. While some brands label their pods “recyclable” that holds true only in select communities with coffee pod recycling programs.  Currently, those programs are not operating in our region. 

Why cant I recycle them curbside? 

  1. Multiple materials comprise a coffee pod: an aluminum top, paper filter, coffee grounds and a plastic cup. Each material must be separated to be properly recycled, a process too complex for the current technology at standard recycling centers. 
  1. Although our curbside program accepts plastic and aluminum, both the plastic cup and aluminum components are too small to be properly sorted at the recycling facility. Anything smaller than 4 inches by 4 inches (like a post-it note size) falls through a screen and is landfilled with other small contaminants and residue.  

There is a way! 

You can recover your coffee pod aluminum by combining it with other clean aluminum into a ball 4” or larger and place it in your cart.  

Compost the coffee grounds and paper for a great soil additive. 

Take advantage of the one of several mail-in opportunities. These services separate the plastic and aluminum for recycling and the coffee and filter for composting. Check with the coffee pod maker for a free mail-in program. Terracycle, Recycle A Cup, and Grounds to Grow On also provide this service. 

Reduce your use 

If you’re ready to kick the single-use habit and reduce waste

Try another brewing method. Some coffee machines are compatible with a refillable K-cup or coffee pod option. French press espresso makers are capable of making smaller quantities of coffee and require no single use materials to brew.  

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:   

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov 

The Plastic Free EcoChallenge Is On!

Stop plastic pollution at its source.

More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year. Single-use plastics, such as take-out waste, accounts for 50% of this pollution. We all have the power to stop plastic pollution at its source by making simple lifestyle changes to reduce our disposable plastic habit.

Join The Woodlands Township’s Plastic-Free EcoChallenge Team for the month of July to learn ways to reduce plastic and compete with other organizations across the globe. 

Single-use plastics are used for moments, but exist on the planet for hundreds of years.

The Plastic-Free EcoChallenge is hosted by the network of North American Zoos & Aquariums and inspired by the Australian-founded Plastic Free July initiative to end plastic pollution in our oceans. This 31-day, global challenge will empower you with ideas to reduce and refuse single-use plastics. We invite you to take action and start plastic-free habits today.  

Earn points for our community by completing the suggested daily or one-time actions. During the EcoChallenge, participants are encouraged to share their progress with fellow Ecochallengers on the website and on social media. The combination of collective inspiration, camaraderie and friendly competition makes reducing plastic use a lot easier and a lot more fun. Let’s share our successes and do good together. 

Are you ready to stop plastic pollution at its source? Check out this video about how to join the Plastic-Free EcoChallenge or follow the instructions below.

How to sign up

  1. Visit this referral link to join The Woodlands Township’s team. 
  2. Create an account 
  3. Invite your friends to earn bonus points. 
  4. Select the actions you will take in July and start earning points for our community! 

If you aren’t interested in joining the competition, you can still make a difference. Here are the top ways to reduce plastic in your daily life: 

  • Bring your own bag.  On average in the United States, 100 billion plastic bags are used by consumers annually. The average time each bag is used is less than 15 minutes. Remember to wash reusable bags regularly. 
  • Bring your own water bottle or cup. The amount of water used to produce a plastic bottle is 6 to 7 times the amount of water in the bottle. 
  • Use your own mug. Store a mug at your office or bring coffee in a travel mug from home. 
  • Choose cardboard and paper packaging over plastic containers and bags. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging– the fastest-growing type of packaging–gets recycled. 
  • Kick the disposable straw habit, especially plastic ones. If you must use a straw, try a reusable one made of stainless steel, silicone or bamboo. 
  • When you can’t reduce, remember to recycle plastic bottles and containers! Check out these tips for recycling take-out waste 

Help us turn the tide on plastic pollution by joining the 2020 Plastic-Free EcoChallenge with The Woodlands Township. For questions, contact the Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800 or enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Recycling Dilemma #1006 – Cut Out Contamination

Recycling conserves resources, saves energy, prevents pollution and reduces landfill space. We all have the best intentions to do right by recycling, but did you know that recycling correctly is just as important as deciding to recycle in the first place? 

In The Woodlands, we have a single-stream recycling program that allows all accepted recyclables to be placed in one container. Bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, cartons and glass can all go freely into one container, no sorting or bagging needed (in fact, you should never bag your recyclables). Because materials are commingled, they must be sorted when they get to the recycling center. 

Sorting equipment at the recycling center is designed  to sort only the items accepted in the program. All other items are considered contamination. Contamination damages equipment, creates unsafe work conditions for staff and decreases the value of recyclables. 

Did you know? In extreme cases, too much contamination can send an entire truck load of recyclables to the landfill. 


The most common contaminants to AVOID putting in your recycling cart are: 

  • Plastic Bags & Film – Return these to a local grocery store for proper recycling.  
  • Tanglers – No hoses, hangers, wires, chains or electronics. 
  • Clothing or Linens – Donate usable clothing and linens to local charitable organizations.  
  • Food and Liquid – Recyclables must be clean; remember to empty and rinse all containers. Greasy pizza boxes, paper plates and towels belong in the trash. 
  • Styrofoam or #6 Plastic – Look for the symbol. Only plastics labelled #1-5 are accepted

When in doubt, throw it out! Even better, call The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department for help with recycling right, 281-210-3800. 


Please remember to always follow Waste Management guidelines which can be found on the lid of your recycling cart. For more recycling resources, visit the Township’s recycling webpage.  

Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag

Free your recyclables!

Free your recyclables blog post

To bag or not to bag your recyclables? The answer is simple. Leave them loose! Plastic bags, film and flexible packaging are not accepted in our curbside carts. In fact, they’re the number one contaminant of our curbside recycling. If residents stopped bagging their recyclables our community would cut contamination by 50%. The value of recyclables is directly tied to how clean, or uncontaminated, they are. The success of the recycling industry is dependent on finding buyers for clean, quality recyclable materials.

Why aren’t bags allowed in our program?

In The Woodlands, we enjoy the convenience of a single stream recycling program in which all acceptable materials are deposited in one cart. However, the recyclables – plastic containers and bottles #1-5, cartons (think juice or soup), cardboard, paper, aluminum cans and glass containers – must be sorted once they reach the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

During the initial stages of sorting, loose plastic bags and film are separated from the rest of the materials by hand. This takes a great deal of effort, and much of it slips by, wrapping around machinery and damaging equipment further down the line. MRFs have to shut down the processing line several times a day to remove plastic film entangled in the machines. This takes up valuable time and increases costs. It also creates unsafe working conditions for the individuals that must crawl into the machines to remove the film. Check out the video below to see the effects of plastic bags on MRF equipment.

The problem with bagging recyclables

When we bag our recyclables we cause a different problem – workers at the MRF can’t tell if the material inside is trash or recycling – and so the entire bag is often sent to the landfill and all those good recyclables go to waste.

Although plastic bags and films do not belong in our curbside carts they are recyclable and quite valuable. So gather up all forms of plastic film in your house and take it your local grocery store – almost every store has a receptacle at the front. The bags and film are bailed, sold and eventually turned into composite lumber for making decks, benches, and playground sets. Plastic film can also be reprocessed into small pellets, which are turned into new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipe.

So let loose and free those recyclables!

Check out our website for more information about recycling and curbside services in The Woodlands.