Recycler plans to evolve
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2012
10/22/12 at 11:43 AM
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Now that Tulsa has a new citywide household recycling program, the Metropolitan Environmental Trust is looking to evolve to stay relevant.
Since the launch of the full program Oct. 1, the city is collecting about 400 tons of recyclables a week, on track for 20,000 tons annually.
As a result, the M.E.T.'s five Tulsa recycling centers have seen roughly a 75 percent drop in materials.
M.E.T. Executive Director Michael Patton said he expects the 1,500 tons he usually generates each year at the Tulsa sites to fall to about 400.
"Right now, I'm not going to overreact," he said. "I'm waiting until Dec. 1 to see how the numbers shake out and determine the best way forward."
The M.E.T. has eight drop-off sites located in Tulsa area suburbs which bring in about 4,000 tons. Patton doesn't expect changes to those.
Some of Tulsa's sites, however, could be moved or closed, have reduced hours and fewer workers, he said.
"I have to be a businessman," Patton said. "Don't get me wrong - We've very happy to have citywide recycling. We pushed for it.
"But I really don't want to lose any of our workers. We're green people, but the M.E.T. effort is really one of providing jobs."
The M.E.T.'s 13 recycling centers employ about 120 part-time workers with developmental and physical disabilities from agencies such as Bios, Bridges Foundation, Central State Community Services, Gatesway, Home of Hope, ResCare Oklahoma, Show Inc. and The Major Group.
Collette Beil, Show Inc.'s program coordinator, said the M.E.T. began using workers from her agency about 20 years ago.
"They tried hiring seniors and teens and placing ads in the classifieds, but they found our clients to be very responsible and eager to work," she said.
The loss of any M.E.T. jobs would be devastating, Beil said, but not just because of the financial impact.
"They really take pride in the job they do, and it's not so simple for them to just go out and find a new one," she said.
Brad Mashburn of Gatesway agreed, saying these jobs give people with disabilities "a sense of being wanted and productive."
"A lot of people take their jobs for granted," he said. "But for our clients, it's very different. They wake up in the morning ready to work, ready to see people and ready to be part of the community."
Patton said he's bracing for the possibility that Tulsa's subsidy of $603,390 could be decreased next fiscal year.
The M.E.T.'s total budget is about $1.46 million, coming from a combination of government subsidies, recycling revenue and donations.
Out of Tulsa's subsidy, $260,611 is put toward twice-per-year household pollutant collection events. That amount is likely to stay the same, he said.
But the subsidy balance, which goes to the M.E.T.'s administration and recycling center budgets, may drop, Patton said.
Of Tulsa's 116,000 households, roughly 110,000 are participating in the cart-based curbside recycling program that is included in the new trash system.
The M.E.T. is planning a new focus on Tulsa's apartment dwellers and businesses as potential customers, Patton said.
The recycling centers in west Tulsa and on Admiral Place may need to be moved to be closer to apartment complexes, he said.
"I'm driving around scouting out locations," he said. "I'd love for someone to step forward and let me use a parking lot."
The M.E.T. also is focusing on taking materials that aren't accepted through the household program, Patton said. The Sheridan Road center this summer began recycling e-waste and plastic grocery bags.
Education is another area that the M.E.T. sees an expanded role, Patton said.
"The city can do its education about the rules and regulations," he said, "and where we can be effective is motivating even more people to take advantage of the recycling program and explain why it's a good thing."
The M.E.T. hosted a special event over the weekend to teach people how to compost and the benefits of it.
The city under the new trash and recycling system is charging 50 cents per green waste bag of leaves and lawn clippings, prompting many residents to seek more information about composting, Patton said.
The M.E.T. also will continue holding the household pollutants collection events at the fairgrounds.
Patton said he envisions that effort expanding, if Tulsa leaders wanted to invest in a permanent pollutant collection site where residents could drop off pollutants year-around.
"I see the M.E.T. having a future," he said. "We are just having to find new challenges to help make this a better world."
Tulsa M.E.T. Recycling Centers
- North Tulsa Center, 3720 E. Admiral Place
- East Tulsa Center, 12466 E. 21st St.
- Central Tulsa Center, 3495 S. Sheridan Road
- South Tulsa Center, 2019 E. 81st St.
- West Tulsa Center, 1502 W. 51st St.
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Hannah Woodard, 6, came with her family to the Metropolitan Environmental Trust's 3495 S. Sheridan Road drop-off site to recycle phone books. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
John Littrell, a worker at the Metropolitan Environmental Trust's 3495 S. Sheridan Road drop-off site, also organizes recycled glass bottles as part of his job. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World