More Tulsans recycle with ease of new trash service
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9/26/12 at 2:17 PM
Girls create a lot of trash, Doris Degner-Foster joked.
She has two daughters, ages 16 and 20. With her husband, they make a household of four.
"We generate a lot of trash, anyway," the south Tulsa resident said.
They don't recycle - yet. Of course, that's soon to change.
At first, Foster wasn't all that crazy about the new trash and recycling program, for which Tulsa residents have either received or are about to receive new bins. In fact, Foster was "dreading" it - rinsing cans, deciding what goes in this bin, what doesn't.
But she's had time, as thousands of Tulsans have, to warm to the idea. She even kept the information pamphlet about what's recyclable and what's not.
"It's on my refrigerator as we speak," Foster said. "It's not going to kill us, and it's a good thing."
About 50 percent of Americans recycle on a regular basis, said Michael Patton, executive director of the Metropolitan Environmental Trust (MET), a governmental trust authority that receives funding from local governments to operate residential recycling drop-off locations and provide hazardous waste disposal for residents.
In Oklahoma, those who recycle amount to only about 20 percent of the population, Patton said - but it's closer to 30 percent in Tulsa.
Before the new bins started rolling out across the city this summer, only about 16,000 curbside recyclers participated in the program, said Liz Hunt, spokeswoman for the city of Tulsa.
Hunt was one of those 16,000 or so. Once the program kicks in, she'll be among nearly 116,000.
"I'm kind of a new recycler," said Hunt, who didn't find the former system convenient enough for her family. The bins were small, sometimes the pickup was late, sometimes she'd forget to take it to the curb.
Now, all recyclables go into the new blue bins - no bags needed, nothing to sort among the recyclables like before.
Under the new program, "it's all single stream," Hunt said. "They've expanded the offerings for plastics one through seven, cardboard, box board, clear, brown, green glass ... It's just amazing."
The Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy set out to achieve three things with the new program, Hunt said, the first being a unified collection service.
The second goal was to have a fair and balanced rate structure, where low-waste generators aren't subsidizing high-waste generators, she said.
Thirdly, of course, was to encourage recycling, which will help subsidize rates for the new program, as the city will earn rebates from recycling process vendors.
Between the city's green bin collections and the five MET centers in town, about 4,000 tons of recyclables were collected in the past 12 months, Patton said. He predicts the 12 months of 2013 will see 20,000 tons collected, an increase of 500 percent.
"The main reason I support more recycling is not to save the whales ... but because it creates jobs," Patton said.
The MET employs 120 workers with disabilities working at its centers. Also, the new company picking up recycling, NeWSolutions, has employed a couple dozen workers to drive trucks and handle cans. And the company contracted to sort recycling, American Waste Control, has also hired a couple of dozen workers.
The largest employer in Muskogee is a paper mill using 100 percent recycled paper, and the largest employer in Sapulpa is a glass bottle manufacturer using recycled glass, Patton said.
He estimates that recycled feedstock manufacturers in Oklahoma employ 5,000 people with an annual payroll of $200 million.
"Recycling has to be a habit," Patton said. "Picking up a few things every other week or making people drive to recycle makes it hard to get in the habit."
When Lisa Buteau and her husband are finished with the newspaper, they take it out to the recycle bin, she said. She wasn't a recycler before, but it's convenient now.
Like Hunt, Erin Weaver tried the original, small recycle bins and sometimes forgot when to set them out. It was easier to throw everything away in the same container.
"What do you have to do now? Nothing," Weaver said. "They've just made it really easy, and I'm thrilled."
Weaver keeps their bins on the side of the house but uses two garbage cans in the garage - one for recyclables, another for trash.
"I'm assuming my husband has picked up on what I'm doing," she quipped.
A year from now, Patton would like to see people looking back, and think, "Wow, why didn't I do this all along?' "
Recycling will lead to more awareness among Tulsans for other environmental issues, Patton hopes.
"Recycling is the gateway drug to becoming an environmentalist."
Take Foster, for instance. After talking about dreading the new trash service, she talked about plastic liquid detergent containers.
"Why on Earth don't they just sell the detergent in cardboard milk cartons that we can pour into these containers?" she asked. It's less waste that way, right?
Packaging matters, Patton said. "We have many choices at the store for soap, orange juice, even beef stew. How we purchase is a clear message to the store and the manufacturer. Every dollar I spend can be a vote for the environment."
Twenty years ago, laundry boxes were the size of furniture, he continued. Now, we have the same number loads in a smaller container. Less square inches of packaging per use should be our goal.
"I have much higher hopes for awareness than just soap containers." He hopes Tulsans start to compost or buy a mulching mower. He hopes they think about their vehicle miles traveled, even learn to make soup with leftovers.
After all, Patton said, "Waste is a terrible thing to mind."
Items You Can Recycle
Paper and boxboard
- Newspaper and advertising inserts
- Junk or advertising mail and envelopes
- Colored or white paper
- Cereal and dry food boxes (without the liner)
- Paperback and hardback books
- Cardboard egg cartons
- Magazines, catalogs and phone books
- Paper wrapping paper
- Shredded paper
- Flattened cardboard boxes
- Frozen food boxes
- Soda and other aluminum cans (rinsed)
- Canned food cans and their caps or lids (rinsed)
- Clear, brown and green beverage containers (including soda, beer, wine and liquor bottles, rinsed)
- Clear, brown and green juice and food containers (pickle, ketchup, jelly, etc.; rinsed)
Plastics Nos. 1-7
- Yogurt, dairy and margarine tubs and lids (rinsed)
- Milk, juice, soda and other beverage bottles and their caps (rinsed)
- Shampoo and conditioner bottles (rinsed)
- Window, bathroom and kitchen cleaning bottles (rinsed)
- Detergent and fabric-softener bottles (rinsed)
- Bubble wrap
- CD cases
- Shrink wrap
- Clear deli trays (rinsed)
- Empty prescription or over-the-counter medicine vials and caps
- Stadium cups (rinsed)
- Durable reusable containers and lids (Tupperware-type materials, rinsed)
- Clamshell containers (those with a black base and clear lid, rinsed)
- Rigid plastics (laundry baskets, lawn furniture, buckets and toys if they can fit inside your blue bin with the lid closed)
- Food jars and squeezable bottles (mayonnaise, salad dressing, vegetable oils, mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce and syrup; rinsed)
Items You Cannot Recycle
- Food waste
- Food-soiled containers
- Ceramic cups and plates
- Yard waste
- Garden/water hoses
- Styrofoam or packing peanuts
- Clothes, shoes and clothing accessories
- Wax- or plastic-coated boxes, plastic or paper products
- Paper towel, facial tissue and toilet tissue
- Pizza boxes
- Mirror glass
- Disposable diapers
- Pool tarps or covers
- Automotive parts and containers that held automotive products
- Disposable dishware and utensils (items commonly used at picnics, parties or barbecues)
- Aerosol spray cans (helium tanks, spray paint, air fresheners and cleaning products)
- Latex paint cans and lids containing hardened or solidified paint
- Stain, varnish and paint-thinner containers
- Scissors and other sharp items
- Carpet and carpet pads
- Clay flowerpots
- Drinking glasses
- Heat-resistant ovenware
- Light bulbs
- Fluorescent lights
- Construction material
- Auto glass
- Alkaline batteries
- Plastic bags
- Aluminum foil
- Aluminum trays
- Clothes hangers (bundled)
- Pots or pans (without wood, plastic or rubber attachments)
- Pet waste
- Electronics and small appliances (toasters, microwaves, coffeemakers, etc.)
The Metropolitan Environmental Trust of Tulsa is now collecting e-waste at its central Tulsa location, 3495 S. Sheridan Road.
Acceptable e-waste includes: cameras, computer batteries, computer towers, copiers and scanners, fax machines, keyboards and mouses, laptops, microwaves, phones, printers, power cords, small appliances, UPS systems, and VCRs and DVD players.
Unacceptable e-waste includes: air conditioners, large appliances, items more than 40 pounds, light bulbs, monitors, refrigerators and televisions.
For more, visit tulsaworld.com/met
Recycling recycle bins
Now that the new recycle and trash carts are rolling out
across Tulsa, those of you who used the former green recycling
bins may be wondering what to do with them now.
It shouldn’t surprise you that officials are suggesting you
Annie Brady, who’s the creative media director for the
Metropolitan Environmental Trust (MET), has been creating
fun ads (“Bin there, done that” and “R U Binterested?” among
them) to suggest folks bring their old recycling bins to any one
of these five MET locations:
— Tulsa Central Center, 3495 S. Sheridan Road
— East Tulsa Center, 12466, E. 21st St.
— North Tulsa Center, Admiral Place and Louisville Avenue
— South Tulsa Center, 2019 E. 81st St.
— West Tulsa Center, 1502 W. 51st St.
“The plan is that we will clean them and re-purpose them
in an environmentally friendly way,” Brady said. “We would
love to be able to provide them to urban gardens, festivals and
You can also repurpose them in your own home, suggested
city spokeswoman Liz Hunt. For example, use the old bins in
your home to store recyclables until you dump them in your
new blue bin. Or be creative and use them as a planter or herb
Original Print Headline: Recycling ease
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Lisa Buteau deposits paper items into her new city-issued trash recycling bin in her backyard. Buteau and her husband weren't recyclers before the new program, but they find it convenient to recycle now. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World