M.E.T. faces a revenue gap
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Saturday, April 04, 2009
4/04/09 at 2:51 AM
The Metropolitan Environmental Trust — the Tulsa region's leading recycling source — is looking to close an estimated $95,000 revenue gap this fiscal year due to the depressed value of old newspapers, aluminum cans and bottles.
Executive Director Michael Patton is stumping for extra money from the M.E.T.'s governmental partners and other sources to make it to June 30, which is the end of the budget year.
"We've never seen prices fall so far so fast," he said, noting that the price of newspapers is $50 per ton now when, a year ago, he got $160 per ton.
Factoring in the $19 per ton hauling cost and the cut to the firm doing the recycling, the M.E.T.'s take shrinks dramatically.
Recently, the M.E.T. has taken in its collected bottles and not received any money in return, and the value of aluminum cans plunged from about 47 cents per pound to 15 cents in two months.
"If anything, we saw the recession first in this field," he said. "It's supply and demand, and that's a law of economics that you can't overcome with good intentions. There's less demand because manufacturing is down."
Tulsa's trash board has agreed to chip in up to $60,000, as about 60 percent of the M.E.T.'s customers are city residents.
Broken Arrow and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality have each pledged $5,000.
Patton said he's working hard to come up with the money needed so that he doesn't have to cut back on the 11 recycling drop-off sites — five of which are in Tulsa — special events, public education programs or employees. A 12th collection site is set to open later this month in Coweta.
"Now that Tulsa has stepped forward, there's a sigh of relief," he said. "We're still not out of the woods yet. The prices are starting to go back up, but if they plummet again, we'll be in danger."
The M.E.T. can't simply stop recycling until the market fully bounces back, Patton said.
"This is a jobs program," he said, noting that the M.E.T. has about half a dozen full-time employees and about 100 part-time workers with disabilities who staff the drop-off sites.
And of course there are environmental implications, Patton said. The M.E.T. takes in about 3,000 tons of recyclables each year. "Do we just throw it all away?" he asked.
For the next budget year, Patton is counting on the value of materials returning to historical averages.
Tulsa trash board chairman Steve Berlin said recently that the M.E.T.'s continued survival is vitally important, even if a citywide curbside recycling program that's being discussed is eventually adopted.
"There always will be that need," he said, citing apartment dwellers and small businesses.
The M.E.T. operates on a roughly $1.3 million budget. Of that, $839,000 comes as subsidies from 10 municipal partners and Tulsa County.
The balance is from donations, grants and the sale of recyclables.
Tulsa's annual portion of the subsidies is $576,076, which is less than the $583,077 the M.E.T. received in 1995 when Patton became executive director.
"And now we have a much bigger operation, with more recyclables coming in," he said.
There's little wiggle room in the budget, Patton said. At the end of fiscal year 2008, after covering all expenses, there was $3,696 left over to put into a rainy day fund.
Pollutant collection this weekend
The Metropolitan Environmental Trust
is hosting its biannual pollutant collection
event this weekend at Expo Square.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and
Sunday, residents of Tulsa, Bixby, Broken
Arrow, Claremore, Collinsville, Coweta,
Glenpool, Jenks, Owasso, Sand Springs
and rural Tulsa County can drop o. their
pollutants at Gate 7, which is the Drillers’
Acceptable waste includes cleaners,
yard-care products, acids, pesticides,
caustics, thinners, flammables, fryer oil,
batteries, bullets under .50 caliber, smoke
alarms, oil and antifreeze, oil-based paint,
aerosols, stain, unused prescription drugs
and mercury thermometers.
Unacceptable waste includes all commercial
waste, pressurized gas cylinders,
explosives, water-reactive chemicals,
tires, dioxins and latex paint.
For more information about hazardous
waste disposal, call 584-0584 or go to
Brian Barber 581-8322
Michael Patton, Metropolitan Environmental Trust executive director, stands Thursday outside one of the busiest recycling drop-off locations. The M.E.T. needs more operating money due to the plummeting value of recyclables. SHERRY BROWN/Tulsa World