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State/Region

September 9, 2013

Tulsa recycling gains attention

TULSA — One year after the launch of Tulsa’s curbside recycling program, city officials say they are pleased with how residents have embraced the effort.

About 111,000 of Tulsa’s 116,500 trash customers have requested a blue recycling cart as part of the curbside trash system that began Oct. 1. That was a huge increase from the 16,000 city recycling customers before the new program started.

The Tulsa World reports that almost 25 percent of the items Tulsans throw into those 96-gallon bins goes to the Covanta waste-to-energy plant, where the items are burned along with regular garbage and yard waste.

Most is waste the city says it cannot recycle, but about 4 percent is plastic containers the city continues to list on its website as among items that can be recycled. Those containers — rigid plastics such as yogurt containers and cream cheese tubs — are not recyclable because no market exists for them, city officials say.

Plastic water bottles, pop bottles, milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles are recycled into new products. Those plastic items represent about 6 percent of all recycled material in the city’s program during the five months of data examined by the World.

“The most important thing is that we don’t confuse people by putting stuff on the (recycling) list, off the list, on the list,” said Roy Teeters, the city’s interim solid waste manager. “We need the citizens to get used to this recycling before we start trying to change it.”

Overall, officials say the recycling program has far exceeded expectations, with more Tulsans recycling than ever before.

City spokeswoman Liz Hunt said Tulsa has gained national attention for the new program due to its high rate of participation in an area not known for recycling enthusiasm. The city has been approached by a national film documentary crew and chosen as the site of a national solid waste conference next year, she said.

Other cities, meanwhile, have adopted facets of Tulsa’s system, Hunt said.

“We’re leading municipalities in terms of the way we launched this program all at once,” she said.

The amount customers disposed of in their recycling bins each month climbed upward from 1,540 tons in October 2012 to 1,949 tons in May, before declining in June and July.

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