Expansion Helps Tulsa Company Sort Recyclables

Monday, April 18th 2011, 6:36 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A trash hauler and landfill operator has expanded its recycling side, adding almost 40 new jobs picking recyclables out of trash.

Traditional recycling has people sorting out everything at home, but a Tulsa company is working on the other end, taking mixed trash, and sorting it out when it would otherwise be headed to a landfill.

The conveyor belt at Tulsa Recycle and Transfer is where it all happens. Employees hand pick recyclables out of a constant stream of trash.

The company says it has invested $5 million in what's called a MRF, a Material Recovery Facility. American Waste Control trucks pick up dumpsters from businesses and empties the load.

"This is just a dirty waste stream, and we run it through the MRF to pull the recyclables out of it," Tom Hill, Tulsa Recycling & Transfer, said.

This kind of trash is heavy on cardboard and paper. That's about one third of what's picked out.

But workers also snag aluminum cans and plastic bottles, even if it takes tearing open trash bags to get to what's inside. It's recycling for people who cannot, or will not, sort it out on their own.

"Having citizens sort out the recyclables is best, but sometimes that's difficult, it's hard to educate that, so this offers an option for those people who really don't want to sort, but who still want to have some recycling done," Michael Patton, with the Metropolitan Environmental Trust, said.

The process starts with commercial trash coming in, which is loaded into the sorting conveyor. The wood is ground up; the recyclables are sorted out, and at the end of the system, a magnet pulls out the metal.

Everything is crushed and baled so it can be sold in bulk.

"All of that, until we started up this facility, except for the waste cardboard and paper, was going to the landfill as waste stream," Hill said.

The company says it will soon expand the line to pull out carpet and Styrofoam. They say they'll add another shift of employees to get closer to the goal of picking apart the trash so thoroughly that hardly any of it goes to a landfill.

The company figures it pulls out 40 to 50 tons of cardboard alone each day. They're putting out dumpsters for missed recyclables to get more things coming in.