A trash board plan to burn curbside green waste would take a previous plan to invest in an active composting facility for Tulsa off the table.
The trash board’s proposed contract to burn green waste would run through at least 2022 with options to continue to 2026.
The move makes a compost facility for Tulsa unlikely during the contract period because it couldn’t rely on curbside green waste.
Paul White, Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy chairman, said the board expected to issue a revised invitation for bids this week, anticipating opening bids and choosing a vendor in December.
“It’s not as if the (green-waste facility) is going to go away,” White said. “It’s not as if the city can’t use it. It’s available to anyone.”
The city’s green-waste site, 2100 N. 145th East Ave., offers free mulch and does limited, static composting that is not available to the public.
But an active composting facility — a large investment that could turn mass quantities of green waste into topsoil — wouldn’t be viable under the trash board’s long-term contract.
“It would be hard to support an active windrow operation without a significant portion of the green waste going into it,” White said. “I just don’t think the city is prepared to make that investment.”
City Councilor Karen Gilbert said it’s frustrating to see the city’s trash system regress.
“That sets us further back from the original plan of having an active composting, mulching facility,” Gilbert said. “It’s frustrating that we start off with an investment, but then we don’t follow through with the priority of that investment.”
The discussion revolves around two groups: a majority of the trash board, who effectively want to do away with the green-waste stream to save costs; and proponents of the city’s green-waste facility, who would like the stream to be composted as initially intended when the new trash system went into place.
Green waste was originally intended to go to the curb in plastic bags that would be picked up by city crews and taken to the city’s mulching plant.
But since the program started Oct. 1, 2012, that hasn’t happened.
Green waste has instead gone to the city’s waste-to-energy burn plant, along with the regular trash stream because the clear plastic bags required by the city could not be separated efficiently from the green waste.
“The initial plan of the new system was to separate the different types of waste,” Gilbert said. “So it’s disappointing that we’re not following through with the plan. We can still change the bagging issue without changing the whole system for 8-12 years.”
The new plan for green waste has it remaining a separate waste stream at the curb in plastic bags but going to the burn plant along with the trash.
Both sides of the issue argue that their plan has a net-greener effect on the environment when factors like fuel consumption are taken into effect.
“There’s no document out there” that compares the two issues, White said. “My summation of what I’ve been seeing is that we are proposing a very green — or greener — solution when you look at all the components.”