Tulsa's Recycling Program Remains Stable Despite Drop In Value Of Recycled Plastics

Monday, April 22nd 2019, 8:26 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A drop in value for recyclables, especially plastic, had led some cities to cancel recycling programs, but Tulsa's system remains financially sound, according to the City of Tulsa.

Every weekday, Tulsans put out 46,000 carts filled with trash and recyclables. While recyclables that go into the trash are wasted, the trash that ends up in recycling carts poses a big problem. The city regularly checks recycling bins for contamination and says it varies between 22% and 36% of the total.

"If one truck comes in heavily contaminated, that really messes up the numbers," says Maureen Turner, who oversees the recycling program for the City.  "We're seeing things like soccer balls, and hoses, sheet plastics and film, bag plastics and that's what a lot of our contamination is."

It creates more work at the Tulsa Recycle and Transfer sorting center, where workers pick out some trash, but some still get through. The biggest problem is plastic bags that tangle the equipment.

Workers on the street leave carts behind when they spot trash in there, tagging the cart with yellow warning stickers, but sometimes they don't know what's in the cart until it's dumped.

At Broken Arrow's Leisure Park Elementary, American Waste Control, the owner of TRT, is working to educate the next generation of recyclers about what can - and cannot be - processed locally.

"That's why education is so important, letting everybody know about what can and cannot go into the containers," said Amanda Curtis with AWC.

In Tulsa, about 110 thousand homes have recycling carts and most people get it right. Last year - of everything picked up a the curb, trash and recyclables, less than 10% went to a landfill.