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Before and after Hurricane Ike

Now is the time for any ideas you have requiring millions of cubic yards of wood mulch. From the Houston Chronicle:

The city of Houston will sponsor a nationwide contest in hopes of recycling all of the 5.6 million cubic yards of tree waste cleaned up from households and front yards in the month since Hurricane Ike devastated the region.

The contest will pay $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 for the top three ideas for how to best use the heaps of debris, which city officials have said would be enough to fill up the Astrodome nearly four times over. Proposals are due by the end of the month.

So far, the city has given about 700,000 cubic yards of wood waste to two companies that will turn it into mulch and compost for resale. But the sheer volume of debris far outstrips local market demand for recycling it.

The city is already considering a number of ways to use the waste, including for erosion control, boiler fuel and electric generation, but the mayor said he hopes others will come forward with large-scale possibilities.

“We want to come up with completely out-of-the-box concepts that can create new markets and scale up existing markets,” said Cris Eugster, the mayor’s chief officer for sustainable growth. “And we want something that can be implemented sooner rather than later.”

Here’s the official site to learn more and submit your idea. No, it’s not a ton of money, and no, this isn’t a huge chunk of the things needing recycling, but yes, it’s a step in the right direction!