Trash changes find some unaware
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
7/04/12 at 7:07 AM
See the Tulsa trash collection map.
Find a list of what is accepted at each Metropolitan Environmental Trust recycling
center, along with their hours and addresses.
Calls started coming into City Hall as people arrived home from work Monday evening, and many had the same gripe: My trash wasn't picked up.
The city's Customer Care Center reported 731 such calls through mid-Tuesday.
Despite an advertising campaign, media news reports and the distribution of customized letters and informational door hangers to each residence, many Tulsans apparently didn't get the message.
Trash collection days changed, service went to once a week for 95,000 households and curbside recycling was suspended this week under the three-month interim program launched by NeWSolutions.
On Monday, city spokeswoman Liz Hunt and other city employees drove through west Tulsa, where trash pickup used to be on Mondays but now falls on Fridays.
"I'd say one in four still set out their trash" Monday, Hunt said. "Part of it might have been a domino effect of a neighbor seeing another neighbor setting out their trash and then doing the same.
"These are habits that have been with people for many years, so they are hard to change. We hoped they would have read the letter or looked at the door hanger or read the paper or turned on the evening news, but that doesn't always happen."
The extent of the problem seemed to be somewhat geographic, Hunt said. She and employees also drove through areas of midtown Tulsa that also used to have Monday as a collection day
"You could see a difference," she said. "Very few households had refuse set out by the curbs."
NeWSolutions Chairman Jim Hinds said his haulers went back and picked up trash from about 1,000 houses when residents set it out after they had seen the trucks pass through their neighborhoods.
City staffers are reminding people that trash must be set out no later than 6 a.m. for collection.
"We're bending over backward to accommodate people," Hinds said.
He said he doesn't understand how "anyone on the face of this earth doesn't know what's going on" given the publicity that has accompanied Tulsa's trash service changes.
"But that's the way it is," he said. "We're doing whatever we can to keep everyone's feathers in place and not get ruffled."
From an operational standpoint, NeWSolutions is getting high marks from city officials.
Aside from a few missed customers who have backyard service, the city's new trash hauler has excelled at being flexible, Hunt said.
"They are wanting to do their very best to service the customer and make this a seamless, cooperative transition," she said.
The households that fall into this interim trash system are former customers of Tulsa Refuse Inc., which lost the bid for a new contract.
TRI originally was going to keep servicing its customers until Oct. 1, when the new volume-based service begins, but it had to back out due to equipment and manpower problems.
NeWSolutions agreed to start work three months early with the abbreviated summertime program.
An area of the city known as the northwest quadrant, which is serviced by city crews, is not seeing any changes until the fall launch of the new system. That area will then be serviced by NeWSoutions.
The city's curbside recycling program, with about 16,000 participants, has been suspended.
Trash and recycling carts for the new system will start to be delivered July 16 at a rate of about 15,000 households per week. The process will take about two months. As the carts arrive, residents can begin using them and resume setting out their recyclables.
In the meantime, the Metropolitan Environmental Trust's five Tulsa recycling centers have extended hours for people to take their recyclables there.
MET Executive Director Michael Patton said the centers are already seeing an uptick in business.
"We're seeing a lot of people really fast," he said.
The downside is that some have been rude to his workers when they find out that the Tulsa MET centers don't take cardboard, which the curbside collection program did, Patton said.
But while Tulsa's drop-off locations don't take cardboard, the MET's Broken Arrow and Sand Springs locations do.
In general, the sites accept plastic bottles, glass bottles, newspapers, magazines, aluminum cans, phone books, batteries, eyeglasses, cooking oil and motor oil.
Summer trash service timeline
July 2 to Sept. 30: NeWSolutions will provide once-a-week, curbside service for the former TRI collection area, with households paying $10.52 per month for the service. The city's northwest quadrant will continue to receive service by city crews. Recycling will be suspended until the trash and recycling carts for the new system start to be delivered in mid-July at a rate of up to 15,000 households per week. As they arrive, residents can start using them and can continue to set extra trash outside the carts at no additional charge.
Oct. 1: The entire city will be serviced by NeWSolutions. The base service will be once-a-week, curbside collection, with each household receiving two carts: one for trash and one for recycling. The rate for 96-gallon carts will be $15.52 per month. Smaller trash carts will be available at cheaper rates. Recycling will be included in the system but is not mandatory. Setting out more trash than fits into the trash cart will require the purchase of special stickers to put on overflow trash bags. Additional services and twice-a-week collection will be available to customers for extra charges. Green waste and bulky waste will be collected under separate programs and for different fees by city crews.
Have questions? Call the city's trash hot line: 918-596-9777.
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Sander Tobar (left) and David Saldivar of NeWSolutions dump trash into the back of their new CNG-powered truck in the area of 34th Street and 133rd East Avenue. Their crew services more than 1,000 households in a typical day. KT KING/Tulsa World
Sander Tobar holds onto the back of a NeWSolutions trash truck as his crew picks up garbage Monday. Tobar's crew starts work soon after 5 a.m. and finishes about 2 p.m. after collecting trash from about a thousand houses each day. KT KING/Tulsa World