The Norman Transcript

November 15, 2013

Norman recycling on the rise

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Citywide recycling is up in Norman since the implementation of new curbside recycling services using bright blue, 95-gallon polycarts. The carts are picked up every other week on the same day as regular trash collection.

“It’s been very successful,” said Utilities Director Ken Komiske. “We take more than we did before. The big deal is cardboard, but we also take metal pots and pans or old cookie sheets.”

The new recycling program started in August and includes cardboard, all kinds of paper, plastic and metal.

Norman’s curbside recycling program started in 2008 but did not include cardboard, and the old containers were small and open, meaning Oklahoma’s high winds often turned recycling into litter.

Those first weekly collections netted almost 300 tons a month, but collections tapered off to about 220 tons a month over the course of the five-year contract. Komiske said the average over the life of that five-year contract was about 265 tons per month.

“With our new service we’ve been averaging 425 tons a month,” Komiske said. “We’re only three months into it, so it’s still in the honeymoon phase, but it’s looking very, very promising.”

The household participation rate has almost doubled from about 40 percent under the old curbside service to 75 percent with the new blue polycarts. For more information on the new recycling system call 329-1023.

Norman residents also recently turned in 31,170 pounds of electronic equipment, 394 tires, 225 automotive batteries, 1,025 gallons of motor oil, and 175 gallons of antifreeze, 175 gallons of antifreeze, 28,000 pounds of chemicals, 66,000 pounds of paint and 10 gallons of prescription pills at the 15th Annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection on Oct. 19.

Most of that waste will be recycled, according to Utilities Director Ken Komiske. Latex paints that are good are recycled while the bad latex paints are used for fuel. Batteries, metals, oil and antifreeze are recycled. What can’t be recycled will be disposed of properly.

Norman is also reducing ... at least in water usage. The city council made the city’s mandatory even-odd water conservation strategy permanent earlier this year.

Reuse of water will also come into play if the city is eventually able to reclaim its wastewater by treating it to a high level and discharging it into a Lake Thunderbird tributary.

Coming upgrades to the city’s Water Reclamation Facility will pave the way toward future water reuse options.

Tuesday, Norman voters passed a sewer rate increase by a 75 percent margin. The new rates will go into effect Dec. 1. The increased revenue will fund bonds to help pay for improvements at the city’s southside wastewater treatment plant. Upgrades will include increased capacity, odor control, replacement of old equipment, and, most importantly, improvements to meet increasing Department of Environmental Quality Standards.

Those improvements bring Norman one step closer to improving wastewater reuse options.

“The facility is being designed so that the next level of treatment will not take up more space,” Komiske said. “We can go to the next level without changing the footprint of the plant.”

Once dubbed a sewer plant, then a wastewater treatment plant, the southside facility is now called a Water Reclamation Facility. The name change is an indication of future potential for reuse.

Currently, some of the treatment facility’s water is reclaimed and used at the University of Oklahoma Golf Course for the irrigation system on the fairways. Norman would like to take water reuse a step further in the future and discharge into a lake tributary to boost lake levels, but that will require a higher level of treatment.


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