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City Sending Auditors To Inspect Tulsa Recycling Carts

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Tim Pannell is a city auditor who goes out to check what's in recycling bins that shouldn't be. Tim Pannell is a city auditor who goes out to check what's in recycling bins that shouldn't be.
When the auditor finds a problem he leaves behind a note, it tells the customer what can and can't be recycled and tells the truck driver to skip over the cart until next week. When the auditor finds a problem he leaves behind a note, it tells the customer what can and can't be recycled and tells the truck driver to skip over the cart until next week.
"We see improvements every day and week and we're going to reach that goal," said Kerri Fothergill with the city Of Tulsa. "We see improvements every day and week and we're going to reach that goal," said Kerri Fothergill with the city Of Tulsa.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The city of Tulsa has deployed six auditors to check the contents of curbside recycling carts. They're not checking to see if you're recycling, they're checking to see if what you're recycling is actually just trash.

There's plenty of confusion about what can and can't be recycled, even a year and a half into the new system. The city has published new simplified brochures and updated the website, and now auditors are going cart to cart to check what's in there.

Every morning, Tim Pannell drives another neighborhood, ahead of the recycling truck. He's a city auditor who goes out to check what's in recycling bins that shouldn't be.

"We find the most is plastic bags and trash they throw in the recycle cart, Styrofoam cups, we find some of that," Pannell said.

The auditors dig through recycling to look for what they call contamination. It's usually things that can be recycled, just not through the curbside system.

"A lot of customers let me know they weren't aware they couldn't put plastic bags in there," Pannell said.

They work early in the morning, but occasionally auditors attract attention from homeowners who want to know why someone is looking through the cart.

Pannell believes it's usually well-meaning people who hope something can be recycled, so they toss it in.

When the auditor finds a problem he leaves behind a note, it tells the customer what can and can't be recycled and tells the truck driver to skip over the cart until next week.

The city is checking carts because about a third of what's in there can't be recycled. The city hopes to get it from 33 percent down to 15 percent.

"We see improvements every day and week and we're going to reach that goal," said Kerri Fothergill with the city Of Tulsa.

The auditors recheck the tagged carts the next week and said they're almost always okay. The city has only taken away carts from two customers who just refused to do it right.

The city does not plan to, literally, inspect every recycling cart; they only go into areas where problems have cropped up.

The contamination they find changes over time, at Christmas there are lights and wrapping paper. Right now they see a lot of water hoses and plastic swimming pools.

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