Smaller recycling carts sought, but trash board wants review
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2013
2/21/13 at 7:32 AM
Read more about Tulsa’s new trash and recycling program.
The trash board wants to weigh the demand for smaller recycling carts before it decides whether to offer them to customers, which could require reworking the contract with the city's trash hauler.
The board, formally called the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy, has asked city Solid Waste Manager Eric Lee to explore how many customers would want to switch from the current 96-gallon recycling carts to a 48-gallon version.
The city's Legal Department has said allowing customers to opt for the smaller carts could require changing the contract with the hauler, NeWsolutions, which argues that smaller carts would require more frequent pickups than projected when it signed the contract.
Such a change would mean paying the company more, trash board member Randy Sullivan said.
"We're probably talking a very minimal amount a month," he said. "My personal feeling is ... you need to listen to the citizens of Tulsa who have said that we have to have this."
Numerous customers have indicated that they want the smaller carts either because they lack space to store the larger carts or because the larger carts are too heavy, Sullivan said.
City councilors have also asked that smaller carts be made available.
The trash board needs to know how widespread the need is before it considers changing the contract with NeWsolutions, Sullivan said.
He said the board has asked Lee to find the scope of the need, any relevant data and more information about any possible contract change.
City spokeswoman Liz Hunt said the city will also look for ways to incorporate the smaller carts without a contract change, such as by implementing a pilot program.
Other board members said at a board meeting this week that they support such research but that they would oppose changing the contract so soon after it took effect Oct. 1.
If having collectors pick up smaller carts is considered a sufficiently major change in NeWsolutions' services, it could violate the bid process that was used to select the company, board Chairwoman Cheryl Cohenour said. The city's Legal Department has said such a violation would force the city to restart the process, she said.
"The first thing I need to say is no, absolutely not," she said. "We need at least a year of living with this new system before we start tinkering with the system.
"If they (city councilors) want to try to force us into making a change now, we're at risk, as legal told us, of having the whole thing thrown out and having to rebid it all from scratch, which is extremely costly (and) will start all of that brouhaha all over again all over the media."
Sullivan said he believes that the change would be minor and could be accomplished by agreeing to pay NeWsolutions more.
From the company's perspective, smaller carts presumably would fill up faster than larger carts and would need to be emptied more frequently, he said.
The trash board initially chose the larger carts because it wanted to encourage recycling.
"The thought was we wanted bigger recycling carts because we wanted the city to begin transferring a lot of the trash into the recycling cart," Sullivan said. "If you downsize the recycling cart, the thought is you recycle less."
Instead, some residents have simply opted out of the larger recycling carts, he said.
Original Print Headline: Recycling cart size is being studied
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Alfredo Loera Sr. hoists a trash bin during the delivery of new trash and recycling carts last year. Numerous customers say they want the smaller carts. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file