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City Staff Says They Knew Tulsa's Green Waste Program Wouldn't Work

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Mayor Dewey Bartlett (far right) talking to the TARE board at City Hall. Mayor Dewey Bartlett (far right) talking to the TARE board at City Hall.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The City of Tulsa is promising changes to a "green waste" program that isn't what the city advertised. Instead, while asking citizens to separate leaves from trash, the city is mixing them back together.

In a meeting with the trash board Tuesday, city staff admitted green waste collected from the curb was never delivered to the mulch plant as advertised by the city. As the program started, the city experimented with ways to remove bags from green waste, but never found an effective solution.

Meanwhile, the city required residents to use separate bags and pay a separate fee. In fact, the city is using a separate workforce and fleet of trucks to pick up material that goes to the same place as the other trash.

Roy Teeters, with the City of Tulsa, told the TARE board today "From the beginning, we diverted some if not all" of the green waste to the burn plant.

The problem is the plastic bags. The city can't figure out how to efficiently separate bags from what's in them--it's called "de-bagging"

Teeters said the city tried for three months to find a machine that would remove bags from the waste, but never found a way to get more than 30% of the bags. The city, for half a day, used 15 people to tear the bags off manually, but found that was impractical.

If they could de-bag all the green waste, it could be mulched and sold, but plastic mixed in with it makes it almost worthless.

The city's trash board only recently learned of the issue, even though they oversee the program. Now, they're wanting to either salvage it or scrap it, but they can't do anything fast.

TARE board member David Patrick suggested Tulsans should just put their green waste in carts with the regular trash. Trash hauler NewSolutions already believes most of the green waste is disposed of in household trash already.

"Yes, we're hauling a lot, in the secondary carts especially. So it's something we'd be interested in, hauling the green waste. We're already hauling the trash and recycling, so it just seems like a natural thing to move into if it's available," said NewSolutions President Jason Kannady.

Teeters suggested if citizens had a third cart just for green waste the material could be easily separated, but said city research has indicated there is no practical way to handle bagged green waste.

The trash board meets again in a month, hoping to get some legal answers on what they can do to either make the program work as planned or forget it and have the grass clippings go in with the regular trash.

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